Waterfront Communications Corporation recently marked 15 years in the video switching industry with its most ambitious expansion to date. Waterfront specializes in video switching, quality control, last-mile connections, remote transmission, production and audio/visual services to the broadcast, cable and corporate television industries. The company services its substantial customer base from two Manhattan switching facilities and a site in Washington, D.C. Additionally, it offers enhanced capabilities via its relationship with Atlantic Satellite Communications Inc., a sister company and major teleport with facilities in Tappan, NY, and Northvale, NJ.
Initially established in 1985 as a microwave distribution company, the emerging availability of fiber optic connectivity in key New York City locations propelled Waterfront as a significant player in point-to-point video delivery. It began offering switching services in 1990 when it installed a 64x64 Di-Tech router in the Paramount Building in New York. The company simultaneously launched a secondary facility equipped with a 32x32 Di-Tech router in lower Manhattan.
As the need for video switching services increased dramatically in the metropolitan area, the demands on Waterfront's infrastructure surpassed the original router capabilities. Sub-router solutions were employed with the installation of a 32x32 Di-Tech router. However, significant growth necessitated the permanent solution of a larger capacity router.
In 1995, Waterfront moved to its current location - 545 Fifth Ave. in the heart of midtown Manhattan - and doubled its capacity with the installation of a 128x128 Grass Valley Group Series 7000 Router. The older secondary facility was upgraded with a 64x64 Di-Tech Router in 1997 and doubled again in 1999 with a 128x128 Grass Valley Group Series 7000 router from the original Fifth Avenue installation.
Waterfront is now the largest video switching facility in the New York metro-politan area. An elaborate network of analog and digital video fiber loops originates and terminates at Waterfront's switching hubs. This diverse fiber network guarantees that Waterfront's and Atlantic's clients enjoy uninterrupted service in the event of failures.
The heart of a switching facility is based upon its routing capabilities, and thus each expansion has been predicated upon the installation of a larger router. Waterfront's most recent and ambitious increase in capacity is a reflection of current industry trends and sensible consideration of future technology. While the evolution to digital television is inevitable, analog still dominates input and output signal transmission. The decision was made, therefore, to install a router that would enable Waterfront to conform to present analog technologies and transform into a digital router. The signal wiring and supporting infrastructure are capable of accommodating both analog and digital signals, allowing the analog router's chassis to be repurposed for digital as the need for analog circuits wanes.
Waterfront's expansion has been consistent with the increased demand of broadcast video service in the metropolitan area. In early 2000, Waterfront significantly expanded its video router capacity again with the installation of a 256x256 Philips Venus analog router with a 64x64 serial digital layer at 545 Fifth Ave. Waterfront populates 190x190 of the analog router, allowing the remainder for future expansion.
Waterfront selected the Philips Venus router for its primary facility following an intense evaluation process. All potential routers were delivered to Waterfront for demonstrations and configured to simulate authentic situations. The engineering department and the operators who would actually interface with the router defined the criteria. The significant factor in the decision was the ability to convert router portions from analog to digital without interrupting customers. Other required features included the ability to automatically route signals through format converters, an operator-friendly control board, the potential to upgrade with emerging technologies, control-system protection, redundant power supplies and hot-swappable circuit boards. Control pneumonics were required to conform to Waterfront's identification scheme, and it was imperative that replacement cards be made available within 24 hours. A supportive and knowledgeable service department was also high on the priority list. The Philips router met or exceeded all parameters and brought additional flexibility to the upgrade.
The ability for Waterfront to remain "live" during the installation was a critical factor in the expansion process. Waterfront chose the services of system integrator A. F. Associates Inc. to achieve the demands of the project and ensure that service was never interrupted. Waterfront's diverse client base and the very nature of its business requires consistent service, even during system upgrades. A. F. Associates' experience with moving "on-air" operations enabled the crossover to the new router system to be accomplished seamlessly during a slim 48-hour window of opportunity.
Acting as its own general contractor, Waterfront allowed ample time for contractors to perform without impeding each other's work. A great deal of office real estate needed to be reallocated to accommodate the significantly expanded router system. The first step was to hire an architect to evaluate the space, design the technical facilities and provide for people comforts. The architect furnished drawings to comply with Waterfront's requirements, supplied a blueprint and ensured that building codes were met.
Following the demolition and carpentry phase, a mechanical engineer was employed to assess the HVAC systems for current acceptability and future expansion, including the proper placement of air ducts and power requirements. The mechanical engineer also determined the impact of the new equipment on the existing UPS system, ensured that the facility conformed to the fire codes in the area, facilitated the raised floor installation and obtained the necessary permits.
Waterfront's network is now comprised of approximately 500 video fiber circuits originating or terminating in either hub. The switching hubs enable customers to access an array of different formats or quality transport systems that deliver broadcast quality signals.
Waterfront also expanded its fiber backbone to Atlantic Satellite Communications in Northvale, NJ - one of the largest satellite service providers in the metropolitan area. Atlantic Satellite is a single source supplier of satellite transmission services, videotape facilities and support services to the broadcast and cable television industries. Utilizing dark fiber along with ADC DV6000 fiber transport equipment, the two facilities are now connected with state-of-the-art technology giving Waterfront expansion capabilities in various bandwidth formats including traditional NTSC, serial digital (uncompressed 270Mb/s), DS-3, 100Base-T Ethernet, DVB-ASI and DS-1.
Simultaneous to Waterfront's expansion, Atlantic Satellite also underwent substantial expansion with the installation of a Philips Venus 160x128 analog router, more than doubling transmission at the teleport facility.
Waterfront and Atlantic Satellite have 50 digital fiber lines between the two facilities. Forty percent of the two companies' total workload is achieved by complementing each other's services. Most of Atlantic Satellite's uplink transmissions utilize Waterfront's switching services in Manhattan for the first- and last-mile connection. Together Waterfront and Atlantic Satellite possess the ability to deliver multiple video transport formats to their clients at a low cost.