Inside the Radio Network

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The network automation has done its job in playing and routing the content we created earlier to a destination on the router. That destination is the satellite channel. Virtually all radio networks these days are using digital audio encoding of some type to encode the channels into a MCPC (Multiple Channels Per Carrier) uplink system. The head end multiplexes all of the individual channels into a single uplink carrier, which is then decoded by the satellite receiver. At the station, you tune your receiver to a channel and you get what the network is feeding into it at the head end.

Telos Zephyrs encode the audio for the IDC Max system.

Telos Zephyrs encode the audio for the IDC Max system.

Today's more sophisticated satellite systems have the ability to do more than just stream audio in real time from the head end to the station. Programs and audio content can be sent in advance over the satellite and stored on the receivers hard drive or solid-state memory drive and can be played on command from the head end. The network automation system described above can be programmed to send those commands.

Satellite uplink/downlink dishes in Valencia, CA, (right) back up the Denver and New York uplink sites.

Satellite uplink/downlink dishes in Valencia, CA, (right) back up the Denver and New York uplink sites.

Programs can also be recorded by the receiver and played back at a later time in the event a station wants to delay broadcast a program. Before this feature was available, it was common for a network to play a program live, record it while it was playing live and then play it again three hours later for a West Coast time shift. This used satellite bandwidth to play the same thing twice, which can now be accomplished by the receivers, allowing more efficient use of the satellite bandwidth.

A radio network is a complex combination of many different systems that all need to work seamlessly together from many different locations involving many people. Now, the next time you listen to a network program, you know what's gone into delivering that program to you.

Trautmann is CTO of Dial Global, New York.

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