Monday, December 15, 2008

Comrex ACCESS on the XOHM WiMax Network: WOW!

ACCESS Tested on Xohm WiMAX!
By Tom Hartnett
Technical Director, Comrex

We’ve long heard rumors of a new, ubiquitous wireless data network on the way called WiMAX, and have been longing to spec out its performance using ACCESS IP codecs. I got my chance recently when I received a WiMAX Express card for testing.

The first widespread commercial deployment of WiMAX technology is coming from a division of Sprint Wireless dubbed Xohm. They currently offer commercial service in the Baltimore market only, with several other cities coming on-line around the end of 2008. After enough begging, we got hold of a sample card, shown below, with intention of 1) finding a way to have ACCESS Portable utilize the card and 2) finding a friendly broadcaster in the Baltimore are to help us spec it out.

Fig 1- Xohm supplied WiMAX express card with PC Card adapter

As it turns out, the card offers literally no Linux support at this time, so the project of including direct support for it was shelved for a different day. For future tests, I’ll recommend using the available external modem, which should theoretically have no such interface issues. It may have an advantage as well, since building penetration at the 2.5 GHz frequency used by Xohm can sometimes be challenging. Utilizing the external modem would allow you to position it near a window, and run an Ethernet cable to where the action is.

Fig 2- The Xohm external modem

Before I booked my flight to Baltimore, a little Googling produced some reports that Baltimore WiMAX users have migrated to some other “soon to be covered” cities and had success with their Xohm hardware there. Since one of the reported cities was Boston, I ventured out on a little site survey to see if I could conduct the testing closer to home. Lo and behold, the card in my laptop lit up in various areas in the city and around the Route 128 technology corridor.

Fig 3- This will be easier than I thought!

So I found a convenient location to our office in Devens, which turned out to be the shopping area in Burlington Massachusetts. I went back a few days later, staked a location in a shopping center parking lot, and began testing...

Are you sitting on the edge of your seat? Want to know the results of Tom's testing? You can download a .pdf file of his complete "white paper" by clicking here: ACCESS Tested on XOHM WiMax

Thursday, October 23, 2008

ACCESS In Holland is a hit with BNR

(photo: Reporter Wouter de Winther interviews VVD-leader Mark Rutte with the Comrex Access.)

BNR Nieuwsradio switches over to Comrex Access

"Prinsjesdag" (Day of the Princes) is the day on which Queen Beatrix of_the Netherlands addresses a joint session of the 'Tweede Kamer' (Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament) in the 'Ridderzaal' (Hall of Knights) in The Hague. The 'troonrede' (Speech from the Throne) sets out the main features of government policy for the coming parliamentary session.

On the Day of the Princes, BNR Nieuwsradio successfully used the wireless live connections of the Comrex Access. After the Speech from the Throne, politicians were interviewed by reporters from BNR.

"The interviews were done in the main hall of the building of government. Even in this surrounding built with many concrete and steel constructions in combination with very little bandwidth and fieldstrength, acceptable live connections could be made. The Comrex makes analog transmitters as good as obsolete."

Richard van der Veen, head of technicians with BNR: "One week before Day of The Princes we bought three handhelds and two 19 inch rackunits with Triple Audio. This way we can have three reporters on the road on the same time and have two of them contributing simultaneously. The users are very enthusiastic, because they can now go wherever they want and still do live reporting with broadcast quality.

The success of the Comrex Access at other broadcasters convinced BNR to start using this system for the BNR reporters. With this, BNR can increase the number of live contributions from reporters on studio quality, where before we were forced to use cellular phones."

With this important step BNR moves further towards using IP connections. "We shall probably use the Comrex Access during the election tour in America", says Richard van der Veen.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tom Gleeson's Great Walk to Work and the Great Wall!

Tom Gleeson is a huge star in Australia. He's a professional comedian, radio personality and a Metro. To be more specific, he's part of Two Women & A Metro heard mornings on Melbourne's Mix 101.1. Not long ago, Tom became a part of Olivia Newton-John's "Great Walk to Beijing 2008" which strives to raise $5 Million for cancer research in an effort to find a cure for this disease. So, earlier this year, Tom started walking. The video below is self-explanatory. But since it was a long walk and he had to be on the air at 6 a.m., he (and his friends that joined him) decided to use the station's new ACCESS Portable using a 3G card to get on the air. (You'll see the glowing screen of the ACCESS in Tom's hand as he tries to get on the bus).

Since then, Tom has used his ACCESS to broadcast from the Great Wall of China! CLICK HERE for some photos of Tom on the Great Wall and to find out more about the "Great Walk to Beijing 2008" and how you can help the fight against cancer. We'll update this blog with his audio when we get it. Nice work, Tom!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

WGN's HomeTown Voices are heard thanks to ACCESS

For a couple of years now, Chicago's WGN Radio (720 AM) has been traversing Greater Chicagoland on a trek they call the HomeTown Voices Tour. Oak Park, Aurora, Naperville, St. Charles, Geneva, Skokie, Downers Grove are just a few of the stops they've made. WGN's Director of Engineering, Jim Carollo, put the ACCESS Portable to the test by sending it out on the road to cover some events where ISDN was not available. Jim was kind enough to send us a report AND some audio with video!

"Recently, we were at the Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso as stop #35 on our Home Town Voices monthly tour. As I told you when we spoke the last time, I was not able to get an ISDN line. That part of Indiana is Verizon territory and they need at least three weeks notice to provide ISDN so it was not feasible for this broadcast. Instead I ordered three POTS lines and a DSL line, which they can provide in a few days. The DSL was a stand alone line for our use and there was nothing on it but our Access portable. The Opera House also gave me access to their DSL as a backup but there are other things happening on their system such as ticket sales and office internet connectivity. I did not want to take the chance that some sudden peak on their system could cause a problem for us so I set up the Access unit on our line and used theirs for our laptops to check email and communicate with our studio.

I had a Matrix unit running as backup on one of the POTS lines but as far as I know, it was not needed. The dedicated DSL had plenty of issues though. The delay time kept varying from 30ms to 350ms on the peer stats monitor page of the portable. I guess I need to understand better what that means. Our total delay for this remote stayed pretty constant. It was almost totally in sync with the Matrix delay so I am guessing it to be around 0.25 second. In any case, it was not a problem and they tell me there were no glitches. I attached a sample of the first couple of minutes of the show. As usual, feel free to use it as you wish. Later this week, I'm going to try Wrigley Field using the fixed delay setting we set up."


James J. Carollo
Director of Engineering
WGN Radio
Chicago, IL

For audio from the June 6th Valparaiso remote CLICK HERE.

For audio from the July 11th Skokie remote CLICK HERE.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cape Town FM Has ACCESS at the "Heart" of it's Outside Broadcasts

We'd be lying if we didn't admit that we think we've got one of the coolest products on the planet in our ACCESS Portable codec. But we are obviously and admittedly biased. So, nothing makes us prouder of our efforts than unsolicited praise and adoration such as the note we recently received from our new best friends in South Africa:

Access works like a charm for Heart104.9FM on the move!

Cape Town's Heart 104.9FM recently became the first South African broadcaster to acquire a Comrex Access system. The result was a complete rejuvenation of our outside broadcast strategy that left our competition literally standing still.

The ability to deliver digital quality from any location with 3G coverage saw Heart 104.9FM successfully broadcast the breakfast show on the move in the traffic with our audience in our OB van. Other OB locations included a sailing yacht, the top of Table Mountain, and live presentation while walking the streets of the CBD [editor's note: that's "central business district"].

ISDN services have always disappointed, so we explored alternative options. Key concerns were reliability, user friendliness and genuine portability. An advert for the Comrex Access in Radio World International sparked my interest and we contacted the local agent, Tele-Media. In response to our doubts about local reliability of the 3G network, 3G Data cards and others; Tele-Media offered a trial-basis deal allowing us to return the system if we weren't blown away.

Their confidence was well founded. Setup was a breeze. The system manual is very detailed, and the Comrex support team is informed and helpful.

The COMREX ACCESS has opened new horizons, allowing the Heart 104.9FM sales team to sell creative remote broadcasting packages. Our clients are excited, creating innovative and entertaining programming from locations that suit our advertisers better than our rivals offerings.

User-friendly operation enables more presenters the opportunity to explore new technology without the assistance of qualified technicians. ACCESS can be configured via the touch-screen display or online using a web browser.

The heart of the Comrex access is called BRIC (Broadcast Reliable Internet Codec). BRIC technology has been engineered not only to be robust enough for the Internet, but usable in really challenging Internet environments like 802.11x Wi-Fi, Wi-Max, 3G cellular and satellite based Internet connections.

ACCESS comes with a series of profiles that are optimized for the majority of IP and POTS connections. Many users may never have the need to define their own profiles. But many advanced options are available to help with troublesome remotes, or remotes with special requirements. In this way, you can build a profile having these advanced options and assign them to one or all remotes you've defined.

Technician Babu Parker adjusts some ACCESS audio levels before sending it out in the CBD with Koketso Sachane.

Those of us who have been remote broadcasters have been wishing for a system like this for a long time, and our Programming and Sales teams are reaping the benefits as well.

Babu Parker
Sound and Broadcast Technician
Cape Town
South Africa

You can find out more about Heart 104.9 FM by visiting their website:

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

DC101 Rocks out in the Desert. Back home they're "deserted" by POTS & ISDN

Back in February of this year, Ed Cole, the Remote Coordinator (we prefer the title "Radio Remote Road Warrior") for Clear Channel Washington DC, contacted us to let us know that he'd be taking his ACCESS for a broadcast overseas. Ed wrote, "I wanted to drop you guys a line to let you know of a special, cool remote broadcast we've got coming up in early March. Our local rock station, DC101, is doing a remote broadcast from the Desert Rock Festival in Dubai, UAE on March 7, and I'm proud to be the engineer for this event. As far as I know, we've never done a remote like this, from a country so far from the United States, and we're pumped for it! ... I've been testing our [ACCESS Portable] locally all week in preparation for this broadcast, and I must say, that little unit rocks! I'll make sure we take pictures and e-mail them to you once we get back home. Would you like me to write up a few paragraphs about our experience once we get back in the States? I'd love to..."

Sure, Ed! If you're happy...then we're happy. Just after the remote, Ed (pictured with his ACCESS Portable
below) wrote us with an update:

March 11, 2008
"Hey guys,
We finally got back home last night after a crazy two days of travel. I'll tell you about that later, but I wanted to thank you guys for hooking me up with that upgrade on my Access! That little unit was a stone cold beast! We got hooked up into their DSL connection. I hooked it into my little Linksys switch, and it
connected back here instantly! Like we were back home! It stayed connected the entire broadcast, with only two little hiccups on the IFB return, but they were quick little hits, nothing major. I have pictures and I'd like to write up my paragraph if you guys would like to publish it on your site. Tell me how we get it done? Ed"

Well, just write up something, Ed. We'll get it posted for you. S
o, the next day, Ed filed this report...
March 12, 2008

"Our local rock station, DC101, had a special opportunity to broadcast from Dubai, UAE, at the Dubai Desert Rock Festival, and my trusty Access unit was with me, ready to work. The trip was interesting from the second we went through security/customs at the airports in DC, Amsterdam, Paris and Dubai. When I took it out of my suitcase each time to run it through security, everyone kept asking me what it is, and I explained it to them, to their amazement.
That little baby gets double and triple looks from everyone! Once we arrived in Dubai, and got on-site where the Festival took place, and got our broadcast setup, the Access worked like a true champ. ... the Access [was] working OT on a DSL connection the local telecom provided for us. To my surprise, it connected back to the rack unit instantly. I thought maybe it would take a few seconds with the distance between us and home base, but it locked in and stayed connected for the entire broadcast. We used the great AAC-LD algorithm, which sounds as good, if not better than ISDN. The delay was minimal, with no loss on either end. I was so impressed by the Access, and it's strength under those extreme circumstances. I can't wait to see what our next worldwide excursion will be, but I know I'll have my partner with me, the Comrex Access! Thank you again guys! I'll keep you updated whenvever we do more cool remotes and the Access tags along with me. Ed"

(Pictured left: Elliott from Elliott in the Morning. Above right: DDRF's hanging "bar" which had no bathroom and hopefully a two drink maximum. Please leave your keys with the bouncer.)

Ed recently followed up with this little item on April 30th. This time, ACCESS proved its mettle at home in D.C.:

April 30, 2008 -- NO POTS, NO ISDN!

"Great story that went down yesterday...we had an ISDN and POTS line supposedly scheduled to be installed for a remote we did yesterday. Of course, Verizon screwed up, and I couldn't find either line at our location, so I asked the IT guys on-site if we could use either a wireless or hard-wired internet connection to do the show on, and they said yes! So we fired up on the air yesterday with my handy dandy Access, who bailed us out of a potential disaster! How great is that? :) Ed"

Okay, Ed. You're right. It's really great. Thanks for putting ACCESS through the paces. We're certain that DC101's listeners are lucky to have you working so hard for them.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rays Baseball goes live with ACCESS

Andy Freed (left), Evan Longoria
and Dave Wills
Tampa, FL -- Ah! Spring is in the air. The smell of the grass and the crack of the bat. There's nothing quite like Spring Training in Florida! Fans of the Tampa Bay Rays have a lot to be excited about this year with a new look, great new talent and the prospect of 80+ wins this season. The Rays' broadcast team is also looking to score with fans by doing lots of great remotes this season. Armed with their new ACCESS Portable and Mixer, the Rays have been doing weekly remotes during Spring training for locations all over the Tampa Bay area.
Traditionally, the Rays have relied on ISDN or POTS for their remote broadcasts and ACCESS is usually in the "on-deck circle" as a backup. Well, at a recent remote at Champp's Sports Bar, Rays broadcasters Andy Freed and Dave Wills were all set to do their "Hot Stove Show: Countdown to Opening Day" live from the local eatery. But just moments prior to the broadcast, panic ensued when the ISDN line dropped and wouldn't reconnect!

Luckily, ACCESS was running and ready to go connected via Wi-Fi provided by the restaurant. It was a good thing too! The broadcast featured an interview with the Rays' new owner, Stuart Sternberg, as well as Rays' 3rd base prospect, Evan Longoria.

"ACCESS was connected and the broadcast was flawless. We were really up against it in the last minutes before the show and ACCESS really came through for us," says Rich Herrera, Rays' Director of Broadcast Operations. "We've been using ACCESS in a lot of different applications and plan to use it extensively for pre and post-game shows as well as various other remote broadcasts that we provide to our radio network affiliates throughout the season. Herrera continues, "We had been looking for a way to get mobile with our broadcast so we could talk to fans outside of the stadium or just be more spontaneous regarding our broadcast locations. By using widely available IP circuits like Wi-Fi, 3G cellular and broadband connections, ACCESS Portable is really the perfect solution for our operation."

Rays Sr. Director of Broadcasting, Larry McCabe
and Rich Herrera, Dir. of Broadcast Ops.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

NPR Debuts ACCESS during Texas Primary Coverage

NPR's Don Gonyea

San Antonio, TX -- The Comrex email inbox has been pretty active these days with lots of great user stories and positive feedback about ACCESS! We were thrilled to read and hear (some of us are NPR junkies) that ACCESS made its NPR debut live from the 2008 Presidental Election campaign trail.

Charlie Mayer from NPR News writes, "The Comrex ACCESS debuted tonight on NPR at 8:07pmET from San Antonio, Texas.

NPR White House Correspondent Don Gonyea and producer Thomas Pierce used the ACCESS to talk live into All Things Considered during NPR's coverage of the March 4 primaries.

The ACCESS proved its utility in a situation where there was no time to order an ISDN line and-remarkably-no wireless internet provided for the press. Early in the evening there wasn't power at the site, so the battery was critical.

Our EvDO connection on Verizon Rev A was less than robust, but it worked. We suffered a delay of up to 1.8 seconds during our first live shot. That came down to about 0.3 seconds during our second hit.

I have attached an mp3 file of the ACCESS debut on NPR.

CLICK HERE to listen to NPR Audio

Thank you, Tom and Gino, for setting us up with this gear. We look forward to using it more as the presidential campaign grinds toward November."

Charlie Mayer
Director of Operations
NPR News

Friday, February 29, 2008

ACCESS "rubber" meets the BRIC road in Chicago

Chicago, IL -- ACCESS has certainly been thrown into a lot of situations lately where unexpected ISDN difficulties put BRIC Technology in the "go to" position to get the remote on the air. Chicago's legendary WGN recently found itself with no ISDN lines installed on the day of broadcast. Luckily, afternoon personality Steve Cochran was able to broadcast his show with the help of an ACCESS portable and a DSL line.

WGN's Steve Cochran

WGN's DOE, Jim Carollo, explains:

"When I bought the Access system it was partly because I knew in the future it might be harder to get ISDN and I was looking for alternate technology for our remotes. I did not think that would happen for a while but I got a surprise taste of it this past weekend.

Chevrolet's Camaro BumbleBee concept car

For the past 20 years we have had live broadcasts at the Chicago Auto Show. Some years it is only an occasional drop in but for the last three years we have been doing 9 consecutive days and two shows per day, including our entire afternoon drive show from 4PM until 7PM followed by a two hour sports talk show. For this show the client, Chevrolet, provides a space within their display area for our shows to originate from and they order the ISDN and POTS lines through the McCormack Place audio/visual group. For some reason the person ordering the lines ordered 4 POTS lines and an internet access line instead of an ISDN line. The display and lines are put in place the day before the first broadcast so we did not know until we went there to set up on that day before that there was no ISDN line. The A/V people could not get it changed before our first show so we were going to have to use our POTS Matrix unit for this show. I decided to give the BRIC a shot at this with the Matrix as a backup. It worked great. The delay was almost as short as ISDN and it was definitely less than the Matrix. We did all of our shows on Friday and Saturday on the BRIC. By Sunday we had the ISDN in place so we switched over to our Nexus with the BRIC being used as backup. It sounded great though. I used the AAC-LD algorithm. The most important thing is that the delay stayed constant and there were no interruptions or glitches during a 5 hour broadcast Friday and two additional hours on Saturday.
The attached audio cut demonstrates how it sounds. All of the voices you will hear are originating at the remote except for the traffic reporter at the end of the cut. I hope the audio is useful to you in evaluating the actual performance of the product. Needless to say, I was quite pleased to have the BRIC available."

Listen to file by clicking here:


James J. Carollo
Director of Engineering
WGN Radio
Chicago, IL

Friday, February 01, 2008

ACCESS....First in the Nation!!!

Dixville Notch, New Hampshire -- The last time we saw WOKQ's Mark Ericson, he had just commandeered a SnowCat and was broadcasting live from the top of ice-covered Mt. Washington. This time he's moved the show indoors to report live from the nation's first polling place in the U.S. Presidential Primaries. Even though there are only about 75 residents in this small (but lovely) town, all of the registered voters (which this year numbered 17) gather at midnight to cast their votes. The polls then close at 12:01 a.m. and Dixville Notch's election results are broadcast throughout the world. For this year's primary, WOKQ listeners were getting a live, firsthand account thanks to their new ACCESS Portable codec. Hey Mark, where's your cool hat?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Live from New Hampshire! ACCESS makes it possible.

BBC's Technical Manager Graham McHutchon with ACCESS
Manchester, NH -- Comrex recently made the quick trek up to the 2008 New Hampshire Presidential primaries and we were delighted to see several of our customers broadcasting live coverage via ACCESS. This article appears in the current issue of the BBC's in-house magazine, Ariel, submitted by Radio 4 correspondent Lee Chaundry:

"Just like Hillary Clinton, The World This Weekend came good in New Hampshire, thanks to a new piece of kit

Lee Chaundry:
Just when you think you know the routine for a radio OB, something can come along and catch you out. Most of the time we broadcast using ISDN lines installed by telecoms companies. Or we can use a satellite if it’s somewhere more remote. The costs are around £300 per ISDN line and an expensive £3 per minute for a satellite.

The technique is reliable and works well. So, imagine when BT announced that within the none too distant future it would be suspending its ISDN service in the UK. The only other data service that is available universally is the internet. But it’s not designed to carry high quality audio for live broadcasts. You can do your shopping from your armchair, but you’d be hard pushed to get Today on the air. Anyone who has ever used Skype or other voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services will know there can be delays of seconds, or the person you’re talking to suddenly sounds as though they’re speaking through a vocoder on a 90s Cher record.

Radio news operations has been trailing different technologies to overcome this for some years with limited success. Whenever we’ve used VoIP equipment the same problems with delay and ‘glitching’ have prevented us using the internet as a means of transmission.

That is until recently when a small US company called Comrex released its Access VoIP equipment. According to production types the unit looks as though it should dispense bus tickets, but it works for live broadcasting over the internet, which is a huge breakthrough in our search for a replacement for ISDN. However, I had never used it as the main broadcast line until the New Hampshire primaries, that is.

On arrival, with a metre of snow, I pushed past the hundreds of US TV networks camped out in minus 10 degrees and checked into my hotel. I scanned the floor for the ISDN lines I had requested. Nothing. No lines no programme. It looked as though the Comrex was about to have a baptism of fire.

We did have a stable, pretty fast hotel WiFi connection so I unpacked and booted up the unit, which provided a high quality, low delay line back to TVC. Only this time I wasn’t testing or playing around. This time the unit was going to get The World This Weekend on air in just two days time.

The Comrex remained stable without glitching or ‘dropping out’. It actually provided a better quality line than those over ISDN. And it cost us absolutely nothing. If we’d used a satellite for the equivalent time ie two days it would have cost around £13,000. ISDN installations would have been around £500. Quite a saving.

So on January 6 at 1300 the pips came and The World This Weekend presenter Shaun Ley picked up without delay. More importantly he did not turn into Cher. The Comrex had proved itself. No one would have known that for Radio 4, The World This Weekend had pioneered a new way of broadcasting.

So it seems I can now do my shopping over the internet while also broadcasting Today. Who said you can’t kill two birds with one stone?"

Other ACCESS users that were on hand and transmitting to the masses included XM Satellite Radio's P.O.T.U.S. 2008 channel and KTAR-FM/Phoenix. Boston station WTTK-FM (pictured at the bottom) had ACCESS standing by for backup duties. Several other Comrex users were broadcasting from "Radio Row" sponsored by Talk Radio News Network and TALKERS Magazine.

Monday, January 07, 2008

ACCESS - Inside the Iowa Caucus with KTAR

KTAR Goes Inside An Iowa Caucus: The Phoenix News/Talker pulled off a first by broadcasting live from inside one of Iowa's caucus meetings last night. KTAR PD Russ Hill states today that a team of producers and engineers, using the Comrex ACCESS BRIC IP codec on a wireless 3G data card, provided the first opportunity for a radio station to do a live Talk show from within an actual election-night caucus.
KTAR-FM talk show host Darrell Ankarlo provided play-by-play coverage for more than two hours as delegates negotiated support for Presidential candidates. "What we did was unbelievable," says Ankarlo. "No one has ever been able to hear one of these caucus meetings unfold live on the radio. It gave our listeners a front seat to the very raw political process so they could see how bizarre this thing really is."