Harris' NetVX helps WSU go digital

The public television stations for Washington State University (WSU), KWSU-TV and KTNW-TV, reach far beyond the campus' walls. The stations can be seen in eastern Washington and northern Idaho.

NetVX supports WSU’s existing DS-3 microwave transport and helps carry one NTSC and two ATSC program streams to each of the university’s transmitter sites.

Searching for a solution

WSU was looking for a solution that could support its existing DS-3 microwave transport. It needed a product that could transport an NTSC and two ATSC program streams to its transmitter sites at Kamiak Butte and Jump Off Joe Butte, while providing IP connectivity for monitoring and control of the transmitters. The Harris NetVX one-box transport solution was chosen because it was the only product WSU could find that had a central-management tool and could do what they needed it to do. A single NetVX system can provide a link to any type of packet-based network — ATM, IP or microwave.

The installation of this system was the first step toward digital broadcasting for KWSU and KTNW. The university decided to go digital at the same time it moved master control for both stations to a joint facility in Spokane, WA.

Options and flexibility

Using the system as a part of the digital transition provides the university with several unique options for digital broadcasting, including the option of creating a network with other stations. For example, the university is investigating the option to link its NetVX with KCTS-TV and its sister station KYVE-TV, another Washington Public Television station group, to create a statewide link.

The unit's modular architecture offers the university flexibility for its future needs. The device can transport analog or digital video, audio and/or data over any combination of unidirectional satellite, COFDM, bi-directional ATM, IP, DS-3, E-3 or T1 networks simultaneously. A 5RU chassis can hold up to 17 separate software modules, eliminating up to 14 hardwired components.

A quality signal

The university believes its viewers will appreciate the significant improvement in signal quality achieved with the product. The signal is solid from the studio to the transmitter to the home, and picture quality is greatly improved. Sending the program stream over a digital microwave system will not only allow the university to feed the digital transmitters; it also will provide a digital-quality signal to the university's analog transmitters. The device allows the university to use its digital microwave for both, and gives it the flexibility to make changes in services in the future.

With the help of the Harris team, the installation went well. The team was responsible for initial installation and configuration, and was in close contact with the university's engineering team throughout the entire process.

Sophisticated, yet simple

The university's transition to digital has been a relatively large undertaking, because it also involves moving the operations to a city 75 miles away. Such a project has a multitude of details. Implementing NetVX into the broadcast chain turned out to be one of the simpler parts of the project — disproving the notion that new technology has to be complicated to work.

Tom Handy is engineering project manager at Washington State University's KWSU-TV.

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