By Robbie Green, Director of Technical Operations, Entercom Houston
This user report was published in Radio World. To read the online version, click here.
SportsRadio 610 KILT(AM) has been the home of the Houston Texans Radio Network since the team’s inaugural year. From 2002 to 2017, ISDN lines were used for backhaul from each stadium to our network studios, and as the primary link to our satellite uplink in Dallas. In 2017, an unexpected 1,000% rate increase on all of our ISDN BRIs let us know the end was near for that technology.
Though the price increase was jarring, it wasn’t totally surprising. For us, ISDN had already become problematic. We had discovered that we could no longer rely on it for most of our remote broadcasts, because installations of new ISDN service for normal remote broadcasts at sports bars, restaurants, etc., had already become pretty hit and miss. It would typically take the local phone company two or three tries to deliver a working circuit, and we were wasting an enormous amount of time repeating site checks.
Because of repeated ISDN install failures, we had already migrated most of our local remote broadcasts to IP using Comrex Access 2USB codecs. Using CrossLock VPN with two cellular modems from different carriers, our remotes had achieved ISDN quality while reducing costs dramatically and removing install headaches entirely. We decided it was time to leverage Comrex IP technology for the Texans Radio Network.
For the uplink to Dallas, we selected Comrex BRIC-Link II. Using the internal NIC and an optional USB NIC, we’re able to leverage CrossLock VPN for this critical connection. The BRIC-Link II delivers both audio and the contact closures for affiliate automation to our uplink at Texas State Networks.
Game audio is fed to the studios using a first generation Comrex Access Portable via SRB2 from Sports Backhaul Network — a private IP network that connects all NFL stadiums with their radio broadcast partners. Though we haven’t ever needed it, we use an Access NX with one cellular modem and whatever internet connectivity the stadium provides for our backup connection to the studios.
After two seasons, I’m happy to say our IP audio solutions have delivered reliably for the Texans Radio Network. In an environment where failure isn’t an option, I’m glad we have solid solutions from Comrex to power our Texans broadcasts on SportsRadio 610, the Spanish Texans broadcasts on Mega 101 KLOL, and our 37 network affiliates.