GatesAir Europe develops series of new transmission solutions designed for TV and DAB radio network operators

Broadcast Film and Video speaks to the President and Managing Director International for GatesAir, Rich Redmond. He discusses how DAB Radio has become a key international business focus for GatesAir, and the firm has already discussed how its VHF TV transmitters can be modulated for DAB/DAB+.

I have to say it has been such a busy year for GatesAir already. With the unfortunate news that NAB 2020 has been postponed due to the Coronavirus, which I think was the right decision to make to keep the community safe, the company planned to introduce its first Maxiva liquid cooled transmitter line for VHF Televisiona and DAB Radio. Can you tell meore about this transmitter and what benefits it has?

The introduction of the Maxiva brand more than 10 years ago represented a new era of innovation for GatesAir, then known as Harris Broadcast. We introduced a new transmitter architecture that substantially improved efficiency and total cost of ownership. These were modern era design efficiencies that reduced transmitter size, weight, and power consumption, and introduced a modular architecture to improve reliability and streamline maintenance. We have continued improve all of these attributes with each new generation, first focusing on our UHF transmitters based on customer demand and business opportunities. Our Maxiva UHF line today offers air-cooled and liquid-cooled transmitters to serve all power levels.

We have more recently focused on developing our high-efficiency VHF transmitter range, and have in fact offer an air-cooled transmitter family, Maxiva VAXTE, for several years. As demand for VHF solutions grow, the time is right to grow our VHF portfolio to include a liquid-cooled model. Liquid cooling is generally the preferred method for broadcasters that transmit at higher power levels, and our VLX-OP Series fills that role for VHF TV broadcasters with those needs.

Like our Maxiva ULXTE liquid-cooled UHF transmitters, the VLX-OP Series integrates redundant, liquid-cooling pumps that efficiently move transmitter-generated heat to building exteriors. The system minimizes cooling requirements inside RF shelters, and especially reduces utility bills at medium-to-high power levels.

While we have seen growing opportunities in the regions that broadcast TV content using VHF spectrum, our VHF transmitters can also be modulated for DAB Radio. That is made possible by our family of software-defined exciters, which support all digital broadcast standards worldwide. That brings the efficiency of our Maxiva VHF transmitters to a much broader global customer base.

Beyond the Maxiva VLX-OP Series, our new GatesAir Europe division has developed a series of new high-density, low-power transmission solutions designed for both TV and DAB Radio network operators. These are innovative systems that will change the economics for operators managing a large number of low-power transmitters, transposers and gap fillers. Two systems we are excited about include the Maxiva IMTX-70 multi-transmitter system, which houses up to six 70 W units into a compact desktop case; and the Maxiva PMTX-1 pole-mounted system, which integrates a 50 W system into a rugged, telecom-grade weatherproof enclosure.

The company has also been focused on development roadmaps for ATSC 3.0 for many years and was due to unveil several ATSC 3.0 software innovations at the NAB show. Am I correct in saying these address IP networking architecture and the security requirements of NextGen TV?

GatesAir has always been actively involved in standards development, as well as innovating technologies and applications to help broadcasters take full advantage of what each standard offers. This remains true with ATSC 3.0, the standard at the foundation of NextGen TV in the United States.

While ATSC 1.0 leveraged a high-power high-tower model that generally leveraged a single transmitter to cover an entire market, the favored architecture for ATSC 3.0 coverage is the SFN, or single-frequency network. These tend to use several lower power transmitters to cover a market, and the ATSC 3.0 standard’s native IP support will benefit signal contribution and distribution across multi-site SFNs.

As we know, while IP opens up many new possibilities, there are also greater security concerns. After first validating the basic feature sets of the ATSC 3.0 standard within our transmitters, we have turned our attention to software development for advanced ATSC 3.0 features that include security. We have strengthened access control and user account management, and most importantly have addressed NextGen TV content protection between studios and transmitter sites. This includes STL Security, a layer that encrypts the ATSC 3.0 content path. These features, along with a secure HTML5 web interface, will be available in all Maxiva UHF and VHF TV transmitters.

Does this also lower the cost of transitioning to NextGen TV?

The cost of transitioning to NextGen TV really comes down to preparing your customers. In the US, GatesAir customers that brought new transmitters as part of the spectrum repack have our current-generation XTE exciter, which is ATSC 3.0-ready. That means making a software update to modulate the exciter for ATSC 3.0 content. These exciters are IP-connected, which means they are interoperable with other systems in an ATSC 3.0. They can take in higher bitrate content over IP, and they support all of the security-related features enabled over IP connectivity. And our GatesAir Europe division has now introduced an entirely new series of low-power transmitters that will help our customers cost-effectively build out multi-site SFNs.

What else was the company going to display at NAB 2020?

DAB Radio has become a key international business focus for GatesAir, and we have already discussed how our VHF TV transmitters can be modulated for DAB/DAB+. We also intended to introduce MultiD multi-carrier platform, which brings three DAB transmitters together into a compact 1RU chassis. This is another clever GatesAir Europe team design to reduce space and equipment costs, and simplify installation.

Operationally, the multi-carrier architecture removes the need for external RF combining, and instead generates and re-transmits all three channels through a single amplifier. The multi-carrier modulation supports adjacent and non-adjacent frequencies, providing a flexible lower cost solution for DAB networks. These are all benefits that will appeal to DAB Radio broadcasters and network operators.

Elsewhere, GatesAir has spent the last several years aggressively expanding our Intraplex range of intelligent networking solutions. We were preparing to announce several new innovations for our IP Link range of codecs at NAB. As these are scheduled to ship later in 2020, we have decided to keep these under wraps until IBC season. However, we anticipate that these new solutions will bring Intraplex to a broader range of customers, and we are very excited with one that more directly interoperates with our Flexiva line of FM and digital radio transmitters. We also anticipate a new application for our Intraplex Ascent cloud-based transport solution that will excite our NextGen TV customers.

The company also recently announced that it was expanding its global presence in the CALA, EMEA and APAC regions. This will add to the global business momentum and the long term success of the firm?

We have had phenomenal success in the United States with the spectrum repack, having clearly won the largest market share of those business opportunities. As repack winds down, it’s important to refocus our growth initiatives and meet growing international demand.

GatesAir is active in 180 countries, and has supported many of the world’s largest digital transition projects, including the world’s largest DVB-T2 network in Russia; and national digital transitions in countries of all sizes in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We have large, national DAB Radio transitions under our belt in Europe and Asia. And we continue to help our analog TV and FM radio customers refresh analog infrastructure as they look forward to eventual digital transitions.

A large part of the world has not yet transitioned to digital, or is operating in a hybrid mode as they work toward a complete digital transition. We have therefore built a global sales and service team that brings us closer to our customers in every part of the world, and with managing directors to oversee business growth in every region. Our acquisition of GatesAir Europe has strengthened our research, development and engineering teams internationally We will continue to invest in resources and reinforce our commitment to serve broadcasters worldwide.

How important are trade shows to GatesAir?

Tradeshows remain an effective means of seeing many customers and partners in one place over several days. These shows allow us to bring technologists, sales representative and executives together with the decision makers and influencers of this industry. We believe there is value in that, and we will continue to exhibit at tradeshows that bring that value to the industry at large.

GatesAir continues to address market challenges head on. How does the firm stay ahead of the competition?

GatesAir has been in business for nearly 100 years, and focused squarely on the over-the-air broadcaster. That longevity and stability goes a long way. GatesAir is a full-service organization that continues to bring new innovative products to market, and invest in global resources to strengthen our company. These attributes go a long way in building customer loyalty, and providing them with the confidence that we are here to stay.