Technical Services Group (TSG), a broadcast engineering and commercial AV solutions provider, has been awarded the bid to upgrade the statewide microwave distribution system for Alabama Public Television (APT) to support ATSC 3.0 transmission.
Valued at approximately $2.8 million, the project will require an upgrade of 30 locations with bi-directional, high-speed IP components from Vislink Inc., which focuses on the collection, delivery, and management of high-quality live video and associated data.
“Before we could upgrade to an ATSC 3.0 on our transmitters, we had to have an IP network over the microwave system designed to handle an ATSC 3.0 signal,” said Windell Wood, Director of Engineering and COO for APT.
The current system has been in place since 2010; it is only capable of supporting ATSC 1.0.
The APT network utilizes nine transmitters and 21 repeaters to maintain statewide coverage. The master signal originates from the network operations center at APT’s flagship station, WBIQ-TV in Birmingham. To achieve bi-directional connectivity and full redundancy across the entire network, TSG will install 120 of Vislink’s most popular transceivers, the IPLink 3.0 — four at each site.
Vislink’s all-indoor digital video microwave system, which features a touchscreen display and clean front panel design in a 2RU chassis, will allow APT to transition from traditional ASI transport to an IP-centric system architecture. The new system will also use Simple Network Management Protocols (SNMP), which will monitor and manage the overall health of the APT network.
Both TSG and Vislink have worked with APT in the past. During the recent FCC Repack, for example, TSG replaced three IOT transmitters with GatesAir solid-state transmitters for APT.
“Alabama has one of the best public television organizations in the country, with one of the most robust microwave infrastructures,” Mickey Miller, CEO of Vislink, said. “We have worked with APT for more than 20 years, and we’re proud to continue our relationship as they prepare for an ATSC 3.0 migration and move toward a total IP-centric network. TSG is an incredible company that provides great technical solutions, and we value our collaboration.”
Work on the project is expected to begin in early summer and be completed by the end of the year. With the built-in redundancy (and hot standby feed) of the system, APT should be able to minimize or avoid signal disruption during the upgrade, according to Wood.
Once ATSC 3.0 is implemented across the state, a portion of the bandwidth will be allocated to emergency services, including police and fire departments, while part will maintain distribution of the ATSC 1.0 signal. The remaining bandwidth will be allocated to the ATSC 3.0 feed.
Another key technical layer to the APT plan for ATSC 3.0 adoption is a separate fiber network, currently in the planning stage, which will connect all 30 transmission sites throughout the state. Fiber connectivity will provide additional redundancy and seamless failover for APT.
“ATSC 3.0 is the next step in the evolution of broadcast television. With their emphasis on infrastructure, Alabama Public Television is in front of the curve,” said Bo Hoover, CEO of TSG. “APT’s transition to ATSC 3.0 is going to serve as a model for other statewide networks, and we are excited to work with Vislink to deliver this solution.”