HD Wireless helps Fox Sports deliver high-quality shots

By Ken Kerschbaumer
Sports broadcasters have been on the hunt for wireless HD transmission gear for years but a new system developed by HD Wireless, and recently put to use by Fox Sports for its HD coverage of a race from Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA, proves that the technology actually works.

The HD pictures we were able to receive live were the best we have seen from an airplane, says Jerry Steinberg, Fox Sports VP of field operations. I hope we will be able to put this system to use for future events.

Nigel Spratling, of Mavens Consultants, first saw the technology prior to last NAB. He was so impressed with the technology that he decided to add it to the HD model station, a yearly HD exhibition at the show that demonstrates a complete HD workflow.

While the system is still in prototype Spratling says it holds a lot of promise. The reason is that HD Wireless decided to pass on COFDM for transmission and, instead uses RFDM and a 6.5 GHz link. The result? Transmission data rates of up to 80 Mbps, plenty for contribution-quality HD signals.

The maximum data rate of COFDM is only 12 Mbps and a lot of companies that are creating COFDM-based systems are using dual link systems that deliver 25 Mbps, he says. But the HD wireless system can delivery real contribution quality, regardless of whether it s a helicopter or a blimp.

Fox Sports used the system to deliver two 42.5 Mbps feeds over a single RF channel from an aircraft flying over the track. The primary feed was from a Gyron Ball that is used to track the action on the ground while secondary shots were taken from a wingtip-mounted camera.

Because the system isn t based on COFDM any MPEG-based MRD receiver can pull in the signals, allowing it to be decompressed using a standard MPEG decoder. That s a large advantage, according to Spratling, because it obviates the need to buy special gear.

It also has relatively low latency of about two frames, which is roughly 60-80 milliseconds, he says.

The modem and RF transmission gear is built by Mosley Electronics while the MPEG-based encoder (where the black art takes place), and antenna are built by HD Wireless. HD Wireless is working with a couple of broadcasters on other sporting events, including putting a system on a golf cart to deliver contribution-quality HD from anywhere on the course, says Spratling.