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NETWORK CONTINUITY / DEPLOYING 2 MOBILE SATELLITES FOR MPB • JACKSON MS

A reoccurring transmission issue involving Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s (MPB) studio-to-transmitter tower was proving to be a living nightmare for Nathan Tate.

MPB’s Director of Engineering was feeling the heat, as thousands of PBS viewers and NPR listeners in the upper-third of the state for days had been experiencing intermittent “dead air” multiple times during the day and night.

Though the network’s STL to the region had been identified as the source of the issue, the solution still eluded the tower crew hired to correct the problem.

Of course, Tate had a plan for studio backup - the network’s satellite uplink truck. But the sat truck was unavailable; it being called out frequently to broadcast live from the governor’s office amid the COVID-19 health crisis and the state’s subsequent “Shelter in Place” order.

Without a viable backup, Tate called us to ask our assistance. The previous summer he had seen our demo of a mobile satellite system from Holkirk Communications. Could one of these flyaway units serve as a backup for a broadcaster’s satellite delivery system? Absolutely.

LinkUp’s Chief Technology Officer, Mark Johnson:

“Originally, Mississippi Public Broadcasting had asked for a short-term lease for both units. But, once they realized just how affordable the QDV 120’s were, they asked about purchasing.

“It just made sense - on so many levels. Though they own and operate a well-maintained satellite truck, the truck as well as the equipment have some age. Having the QDV 120’s gives the network more options. Their network backup isn’t limited any-more, and neither is their ability to news gather.

“The QDV’s allow the network so much flexibility. They can serve as a backup to their STL, or as a tool for emergency communications after a crisis. Mississippi faces the threat of hurricanes in the south, tornadoes to the north. Being prepared for anything and everything is a must.”

The request for assistance came on a Friday. Within hours, two QDV 120 Holkirk units were loaded up and on the way to Jackson. The plan was for one mobile system would serve as an uplink by replacing the STL tower at the main studio; the other as a downlink at their transmitter site, feeding the STL’s there with uninterrupted content.

It took another two and a half weeks, but the problem with the network’s STL was finally identified and solved. The Holkirk QDV 120 units functioned as required, and are now another integral part of Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s redundancy plan.

“As stated above I met Mark Johnson at the ABA convention through Mr. Larry Wilkins.” Nathan Tate, MPB Director of Engineering. “I was thoroughly impressed with what they were doing with the system. I asked for his card and that was that, when I saw the chance to use this system and put it to the test I could not resist.

“And I must say when I contacted Mark he jumped right in to motion and got the ball rolling. We formulated a plan and went to work to make it happen as soon as possible.

“Working with Mark, Clay, Bruce and Karen took a lot of the doubt and stress away and the team was here in less than 24 hours, and it was all hands on deck from there. I must say I watched how his team flowed and worked as a well-oiled machine to accomplish the goal we had set out to do.

“I will be working with Mark and the team on other endeavors in the near future. Simply put the system works!”

The equipment:

  • 2 - Holkirk QDV-120
  • Comtech LPOD
  • IDirect IQ5
  • Norsat 1107-HA LNB’s