SVG Europe Sit-Down: JP Delport, Broadcast Sales Director, Cobham Tactical Communications and Surveillance
These are eventful and somewhat unpredictable days for companies specialising in RF technology as governments across Europe and the US continue to undertake auctions to help feed the mobile community’s ever-escalating need for wireless spectrum. Part of communications and connectivity giant Cobham, and a provider of a wide range of broadcast transitter and receiver solutions, the Cobham Tactical Communications and Surveillance business is ideally placed to track these changes.
SVG Europe’s conversation with Cobham Tactical Communications and Surveillance broadcast sales director JP Delport confirms that bandwidth-efficiency will be vital to addressing to these challenges. But in a far-reaching discussion, we also touched on the transition to IP-based operation, broadcasters’ changing requirements of wireless comms, and Cobham’s own latest innovations in this area…
How would you describe 2015 so far in terms of general activity levels?
There has been quite a lot of activity so far in 2015. Many of our customers are already putting actions in place in preparation for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. We are also seeing a quite a number of projects in the Middle East and Asia, which is great for us because it builds on the success we are already having in those regions. There is still a great buzz with the addition of our Nano transmitter and, as a result, we have been involved in some really exciting POV projects.
The general climate for broadcast RF availability continues to become more and more adverse. How does a company like Cobham chart a course through these changes?
As a company we attend all Joint Frequency Management Group (JFMG) meetings and are kept up to date with any spectrum changes. We have already designed and built a range of frequency modules ranging from 340MHz to 8GHz to ensure that our customers have options for ‘cleaner’ spectrum.
What message would you like to convey to UK/European governments about the planning of spectrum allocation?
We should really be looking at how we can use bandwidth more efficiently. Low power transmissions mean that we can use the same frequency in different parts of the UK. Cobham is always researching ways to achieve more efficient encoding and modulation in order to transmit more data with less bandwidth.
How would you assess the current state of transition towards IP-based delivery in the broadcast world?
There is currently a big buzz in ‘software-defined’ networks and cloud-based solutions. This is definitely where the market is going. This movement is still in its infancy and I am intrigued to see how it will play out. Currently, I think the IP movement applies mostly to the news market because of inherent latency and bandwidth constraints. However, Cobham is in the process of designing some exciting IP over RF solutions that will be ideal for sporting applications. IP mesh is something that we have been designing for many years and selling successfully into a diverse range of markets. Recently, however, we are seeing more and more broadcasters looking to us for IP solutions. Our most recent deployment of our IP mesh technology was for the Volvo Ocean Race, the world’s longest professional sporting event and the most extreme offshore race on the planet.
In what primary ways has sports broadcasters’ use of wireless comms solutions changed over the past few years?
All sport applications demand the highest picture quality and the lowest possible latency. We have moved from SD PAL to SD SDI, to HD and now requests are coming for 4K!
We are also experiencing a lot more demand in the POV markets. Directors are always looking for new ways to capture an audience and the POV cam is ideal to give viewers a sense of what it is like to actually be on a field of play or in the racing boat. Refcam, Eaglecam and Umpirecam are just a few examples of all-new camera positions that I’m sure we are all going to see a lot more of.
If you had to select a recent project that exemplified Cobham’s capacity to support sports broadcast applications, what would it be?
The just completed Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 project was very exciting for us. We provided a complete RF solution to Volvo to bring feeds of the action back 24/7. We also incorporated technologies from different divisions of Cobham, including Cobham Satcom and their Marine antennas to stream data through Inmarsat’s service for 24/7 updates from on-board the boats.
What can you tell us about company plans for the coming months?
We are increasing our broadcast team’s head count! We recently employed Christian Hazel to head our Special Projects Division. Christian comes from a wealth of broadcast experience, most recently being head of engineering at London Live. We are also currently designing some exciting new technology that will be unveiled at IBC.