Sochi sings a familiar song when it comes to wireless intercoms

By Dan Daley, Audio Editor

If you thought that RF spectrum issues were limited to the U.S., think again. “The radio spectrum [in Sochi, Russia,] is so crowded that you just about need to be standing on an antenna to be sure you’re getting signal,” quips Larry Estrin, an audio consultant and director of the Global Rental Group at Clear-Com, which has wireless intercom systems installed in Sochi at Bolshoy Ice Dome and at Sliding Center Sanki, as well as several other systems in use by NBC’s Olympic Group.

He suggests that RF issues are an outgrowth of a complex wireless operation injected into Sochi’s rapidly created media-technology infrastructure, one in which frequency management isn’t as rigorous as it is in the U.S. “Plus, the stadiums are huge, with lots of WiFi and cellular use, and that’s naturally where the problems are going to be centered,” he says, noting that, in some cases, crews are reverting to two-way radios, which are not duplex and cannot support partyline operation.

On the other hand, he reports that the wireless intercoms installed at the two winter-sports arenas are operating relatively smoothly. That’s due in part to the fact that they were first installed more than six months ago and were intended from the start to be permanent installations used for future sports events there, with the equipment to be included if any of the venues were ever moved. In addition, the demand on wireless spectrum isn’t as heavy in these venues, which are farther from the center of the events.

The systems include an Eclipse HX-PiCo digital matrix system at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, with seven V-Series key panels for the timing judge, informer judge, two slow-motion operators, audio producer, stage operator, and a reserve, plus two Tempest2400 base stations and 10 Tempest2400 wireless belt stations. Sliding Center Sanki has an Eclipse HX-Omega digital matrix system with Cat 5 connections to the 11 key panels and IP connection using an IVC-32 card to the seven desktop panels and an integrated EQue card for 16 FreeSpeak wireless beltpack connections on the BOB route.

A wired Eclipse HX-Median digital matrix system is being used at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center. It has eight V-Series key panels for the judge tower, venue producer, associate producer, announcer-English, announcer-Russian, VCC operators, DJ, and announcer track. Four PS-704 provide power supply to 32 analog beltpacks for the start point, finish line, ceremony line, and broadcast line.

Estrin says the fact that these intercom systems will be permanently installed will help build up the area’s infrastructure for future uses. “Olympic venues are often temporary, and a lot of the audio systems used in them are rented and removed after the games are over,” he says. “This is a case where they actually purchased the systems. I think we’ll be seeing these used again for more sports broadcasts in the future.”

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