DCI Teleport Inaugurates HD Service

Networks use COFDM system for mobile coverage of presidential events
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Networks use COFDM system for mobile coverage of presidential events

WASHINGTON

With a device that looked much like an upturned milk crate filled with microwave gear, Washington-based DCI Teleport covered the recent inauguration of President George W. Bush with a mobile COFDM microwave link cable of SD or HD transmission at 45 Mbps.

Strapped to the top of a white van with bungee cords, the device used 7-GHz amplifiers and waveguides bolted to a plywood base, over which a white-painted wooden wine crate was installed for protection. Fed by a custom encoder that combined both MPEG-2 compression and COFDM modulation, the signal was pumped out of an omnidirectional antenna atop the van.

"We had absolutely no dropouts from the White House to Capitol Hill and back," said Al Levin, the owner and new products developer for DCI Teleport.

The mobile system was used for standard-definition video on Inauguration Day, but the 45-Mbps link can easily be used for high-definition as well. DCI Teleport did work with ABC to provide HD links for the network's broadcast of inaugural activities, as well as supporting CBS with the standard-definition pool news feeds.

ABC's "Good Morning America" was first to begin broadcasting the day in HD. Most Washington affiliates carried the networks' feeds, with break-ins at various times for local coverage. Several cable channels, such as CNN, C-SPAN and MSNBC, put their own face on the SD coverage.

WIDE-AREA RELAY

To facilitate mobile coverage of events in Washington, DCI Teleport has installed relay equipment that enable it to get solid reception within a 2.5-mile radius of the White House. The Pentagon is included in this coverage area.

Much of the relay capability that the company uses is in the Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue. With one of the tallest towers in Washington, the Old Post Office has a commanding view of the downtown and governmental sections of the city. DCI Teleport has an OC-18 data service (810 Mbps) between its master control and the Old Post Office.

This was the first presidential inauguration covered with live HD cameras. In addition to having mobile and fixed HD cameras, ABC had HD cameras located at the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery, fed back to the network's control center using Nucomm microwave equipment and JVC MPEG-2 encoders/decoders.

"We integrated two HD encoders into the ABC production unit and transported an HD pool feed on a local circuit back to DCI," said Tom Fabian, DCI Teleport president. "We then uplinked it from the antennas on the roof."

The company does more than provide ad hoc services for big events in Washington.

"We provide live camera positions for transmission throughout the city for special events and recurring daily news feeds," Fabian said. "In addition to that, we have a teleport facility that enables transport of material between Washington and [international locations]."

Japanese network NHK, one of DCI Teleport's regular clients, asked the company to provide HD service in Washington some years ago, and this started the build-out of an HD-capable system. The company keeps an HD ENG vehicle ready 24 hours a day to provide breaking news coverage for NHK. Some of DCI Teleport's other clients are the BBC and HD News, which is part of the erstwhile Voom satellite offerings.

Levin was particularly proud of the MPEG encoder and COFDM modulator on a single circuit board that the company used for the inaugural coverage. He described the board as "an early prototype" and expects to have a more refined version in the future.

Several international telecommunications companies have a "point of presence" at DCI Teleport's facility on M Street in Washington, including Panamsat, T-Systems, Siemens (BBC Technologies) Nexxion, Genesis and Level 3. This makes the company well-suited for a variety of international news feeds and programming, which is a significant business in a major world capital.

DCI Teleport also provides office space, editing suites and connection capability to others the BBC, Voom's HD News and for the "Hidaka Report," an ongoing documentary and news program broadcast in Japan. In addition to providing wireless video at 7 GHz, the company also has several 40-GHz radios for temporary links lasting up to six months.

To facilitate international and out-of-town news organizations, DCI Teleport has its own crews, equipment and vehicles. For the presidential inauguration, the company had 10 of its crews working with news organizations such as the BBC and APTN, as well as the domestic networks.

The M Street building is a haven for international broadcasters, with Washington bureaus of many well-known news organizations located down the hall or on other floors. The company operates some 20 satellite dishes on the roof of the building for both international and domestic operations.