Comrex Access Works With 4G LTE
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The summer
remote season is always busy, but a few key events require more attention.
There were 100 hours of special event broadcasts that we did in the summer of
2011, when I was working with Citadel in that market. The big events that we
were tasked to cover were the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen and the New York
State Fair in Syracuse.
an early adopter on the 4G LTE network for laptop connectivity, I had been
working with Comrex getting 4G LTE driver support for their products. Their
engineers were able to deliver drivers that are compatible with the Pantech UML
290 USB wireless modem in both 3G and 4G modes.
We did our first 4G LTE tests in early July in
preparation for NASCAR races at Watkins Glen. Verizon launched 4G LTE in July
at the site for the race and concert season. We sent one of our promotions
members down there to meet with management to find our location, and also test
the Comrex Access portable codec.
Roundtrip transmission delay was around 100 –
150 ms for a 161 kbps/161 kbps codec, as opposed to our typical 500 ms – 1.2
sec roundtrip for a 30 kbps/80 kbps codec on Verizon 3G EVDO. Overall, the
lower latency and higher bandwidth on the Verizon 4G LTE network is amazing.
We were able to achieve what we would have if we
had dropped a DSL or cable modem at this spot. And here he was, standing with
the Comrex Access in the infield, running on battery, no cables at all.
The NASCAR broadcasts at Watkins Glen in August
went flawlessly. We broadcast for three hours on Saturday and two hours on
Sunday. We were able to use a higher quality codec (higher bitrate) than we
would have used on 3G — not a single audio glitch reported. That would have
been impossible on 3G technology given the crowd of 85,000 of people at the
The New York State Fair is held annually in
Syracuse, and it generally has 900,000 to 1 million attendees for its 12-day
run. Needless to say, broadcasting live from the fair is an annual tradition
for all TV and most radio stations in the market. Over my years working there,
we constantly strived to provide a better broadcast from the venue. Before my
time, 15 kHz equalized lines were used. When I started working there 18 years
ago, we would use Marti RPU with a 67 kHz FM subcarrier as an IFB/backhaul. In
the early 2000s, we switched to ISDN and we added Internet access in 2002 to
help with remote control and show prep. As bandwidth and Internet reliability
increased over the years, we switched to Comrex Access in 2010 via cable
The fair moved the broadcast location of
WAQX(FM) to a new site for 2011. While the site
was good from a visibility perspective, it had
no telco or cable service. With the 3G networks notoriously clogged with the
daily 75,000 to 110,000 attendees, we didn’t have many options. We briefly
considered dropping a cable modem at another site on the grounds and then using
a 5.8 GHz spread spectrum solution to deliver IP to the broadcast location.
However, that would have taken significant resources to execute. With the
Verizon 4G LTE network launching just a week before the fair, and given our
success in Watkins Glen, we decided to use that as a primary, and then fall
back to Marti RPU if needed.
WAQX broadcast daily from the fair and things
went extremely well. For codecs, we used AAC stereo 96 kpbs from the fair to the
studio, and AAC-LD stereo 128 kbps from the studio to the fair. We also used
the Ethernet port on the Comrex Access codec to provide Internet + VPN access
to a computer for the hosts to do show prep, check email and remotely control
the Scott Studios SS32 on-air automation system.
Interestingly enough, when we were testing
before the fair, we decided to see if we could make the 4G LTE network choke.
We transmitted stereo, linear 44.1 PCM audio in both directions for four
minutes without any drops in audio. That’s pretty impressive knowing you can do
that if you wanted, and it’s a good demonstration of the available bandwidth.
We would have tested it longer, but alas, with a 5 GB monthly limit, we didn’t
want to eat all of our bandwidth up on a test.
Concurrently with the WAQX broadcasts over
Verizon’s 4G LTE network, we had WNTQ(FM) and WSKO(AM) broadcasting via cable
modems in three separate areas of the fairgrounds.
Overall, the Comrex Access and Verizon’s 4G LTE network
provides a robust and flexible way to conduct remotes. My former colleagues in
Syracuse report the combination of these two solutions continue to perform well
for them, and in fact, Verizon has added additional 4G LTE sites to the market
since last summer to improve coverage.
Alan Jurison, CSRE,
AMD, DRB, CBNE, is senior operations engineer for Clear Channel, Cincinnati.
For information, contact Chris Crump at
Comrex in Massachusetts at (978) 784-1776 or visit www.comrex.com.