The summers events are behind us and I’m back in from the best part of a month the field. I take it I’m not the only one finding time to breathe in the gap between now and the Paralympics? For me that includes filling some of the empty spaces on this blog.
JFMG’s activities during games-time were concentrated out of venue and supporting non official Olympics activities. Where we’ve had to juggle the requirements for business as usual, the cultural Olympiad plus the many non-rights holders and various national headquarters. And to ensure all this remained compatible with the games time spectrum use we’ve been working very closely with Ofcom; so close that we’ve had one of our team, in the flesh, at Ofcom HQ throughout the games. On top of that we’ve had a staffed presence at the London Media Centre to help visiting broadcasters get to grips with the UK PMSE scene.
But we weren’t just holed up in those 3 London locations; myself & Simon were out in the field pretty well full time. Although we could only gaze longingly into the Olympic Park outside the wall, we did have an Oyster card and we were gonna use it. First task was to identify likely hot-spots, either from licence applications - or the lack of them in some cases. We visited licensees to catch up on how their RF was performing and advise on any issues they may have had in their deployment. In many cases these were visitors from overseas, so we were able to contrast how PMSE spectrum is managed in other administrations.
The other main strand was doing a meet and greet with the random Portable Single Camera crews who were evident at many of the popular landmarks. Ahhhh, this is where my limited language skills let me down. Fearlessly, I faced the crew...
s'cusi dove il licenze?
se parakalo poú eínai licence?
s'il vous plait ou est la licence?
oi' where's your licence John!
...and when faced with an expression that said “I don’t know what you’re talking about, amigo” it was helpful that we were armed with a leaflet explaining UK licensing requirements – in several different languages. That tended to change the facial expression.
But the show must go on and there’s no point in spoiling the Olympics for our visitors by liberating them of vital kit. So my approach on the ground has always be to introduce myself as a fellow ‘techie’ - I like to make it clear we’re not poles apart and it’s not a case of Us & Them. Then I facilitate compliance by pointing folk back towards our office for licensing and onto a coordinated frequency.
Thus is was with surprise and a certain degree of amusement that I had a PSC crew actually quickly pack up their gear and run away from me! Having witnessed them filming outside a major landmark (big house, statue of the residents great-great grandmother outside) and using a mic I knew wasn’t licensed I introduced myself, explained the licensing process, offered some helpful documents and my business card. And then watch them run like hell. Somewhat out of character I know, but I was lost for words....
Remember when you were young? Did you watch television coverage of such Royal events as the Queen's Coronation, or the wedding of Charles & Diana. Those event had some of the largest television viewing figures at the time. In fact it's thought more people in the UK watched the Coronation in other people's homes than those who watched it in their own !
But now virtually everyone has their own TV - most houses have more than one - and we take it for granted when major events are televised. But behind the scenes vast effort was put into bring the Diamond Jubilee celebrations onto the airwaves, and despite echoes back to the past, surely this event had to eclipse any past royal broadcasts?
The Jubilee celebrations were several major events back to back. And whilst the broadcast, communications and sound specialists trawled their warehouses for every piece of kit they could press into action, JFMG had to dig deep into the spectrum pot to put together a plan that met everyone’s needs.
The Jubilee Pageant in Windsor in May was a sort of soft start; the Derby meeting at Epsom a little bigger than usual, but with little time to breathe we were into three events back to back in London which put a whole new strain on spectrum and at the risk of banging our own drum, JFMG delivered.
The river pageant challenged the wireless community – in particular the task of getting pictures from boats to the shore along a huge length of the river - in the pouring rain. Boat race this wasn’t; summers day it wasn't with the old currant bun obscured by clouds all day. The great gig in front of the palace was hot and heavy with wireless mics as a huge array of talent trotted on and off the stage with na’er a cable in sight. Whilst the service at St. Paul’s and subsequent journey home by carriage required dedicated two way radio communications right across London.
JFMG staff came into the office right over the extended weekend, dealing with last minute additions and changes; trying to find the last few empty spaces in the frequency plan as time was ticking away. JFMG also had staff in the field, based in the Canada Gate but spending much of their time outside the wall of the broadcasters compound assisting in RF problem resolution.
As with last year’s Royal Wedding, our field staff worked side by side with Ofcom – and chased across town and up onto rooftops in search of interfering signals, keeping unlicensed broadcasters on the run.
After many weeks of planning and close work within the broadcast community, and four not so short days later and it’s all over. As the crews on the OB vehicles wind up their long cables, they also put their wireless kit to bed, ready for the next big outing.
Walking down Gower Street towards the old JFMG office on a cold, very wet November morning a couple of years ago, I looked up at the BT Tower. It was displaying the number 998 on a huge LED screen fitted way up high, near the top. I thought it was odd. Maybe I was half asleep – but I had no idea what the number meant. But then, maybe the BT techs were wide awake and testing the system.
On my first day in London this year, a cold Thursday and it’s 2012; Happy New Year. My walk from Euston to the new office brings me right along Cleveland Street, and at the foot of the BT Tower; which is displaying the number 204. I may still be half asleep; but I know what that number means – and I’m sure anyone working in the Programme Making and Special Events industries will have their own countdown as we head towards the start of the Games of the 30th Olympiad.
Before diving into the Olympic year, I’ve cast my eye back over some of the blog entries from 2011, ramblings which last year reflected a diversity of events and locations that JFMG were able to support. The footie and grid-iron are in there, as are Royalty and the Military, head bangers and mud-bathers, long-distance runners and new talent, bikes, cars and off-roaders, we’ve been down in the underground and high-up in a skyscraper too. I even got to spend St. Patrick’s Day at Cheltenham; though I was able to stand up unaided at the end of the day - unlike most of the rest of the Diaspora.
At an increasing number of events last year we were joined by our colleagues from Ofcom. As part of the build up for 2012, JFMG were able to share our experiences in the unique world of programme making; and at one particular event Ofcom were able to share their unique ability to confiscate unlicensed equipment! I can’t say I got any pleasure seeing the look of disappointment on the face of an unlicensed user as their mic was taken from them. I can’t say I got any pleasure.......
Time spent on site helps JFMG keep across how our licensees deploy their systems, turning those NoVs into nuts and bolts hardware. We also get to assist with some technical issues, sort out last minute licenses for those who had, er, not got around to it, and get to talk tech with engineers from right across the industry. Some of the matters discussed come up more than once, so it’s interesting to note some concerns are shared. I’ve already found myself discussing topics as diverse as White Space Devices, Post DSO Spectrum, Practical Deployment Tips, Big Screen EMC and more. For those of you who have yet to enjoy our company on site, but have a PMSE related technical enquiry burning away indie, there’s no need to wait until you bump into me by the catering truck. Feel free to e-mail us, and one of the Spectrum Planning Team will call you to discuss.
So that’s enough looking backwards. You’ll be pleased to note we’ve already been identifying and prioritising events and locations for2012. Beside the normal events around the calendar, there will be a wide range of non-games cultural events taking place during 2012. Now, it may be a little late to point out that 'Games Family' members should have already applied for radio frequency coordination via LOCOG, but for the rest of the PMSE community, JFMG will continue to coordinate the non-Games ('Business as Usual', or 'BAU') spectrum requirements for you.
We’ll still be here on the web; on the phone and on the ground. But sorry, we can’t get you into The Games; in fact Non Games Family users are not permitted to use their equipment at Olympic and Paralympics’ Games venues. And as mentioned above, I’ve been there when Ofcom confiscate kit. And frankly, you don’t want to be the one with that look of disappointment on your face.
Have a great 2012, and whether you’re involved in The Games or not hope to see you some time soon.
Early September saw the return of the biannual Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition at the ExCel London. Though not strictly under the PMSE banner, as the world’s largest display of land, sea and air defence and security technologies it is certainly an “RF heavy” occasion. There are also a number of organisations present from outside the UK, who may not be entirely up to speed with UK licensing and legislation.
JFMG worked closely with the event organisers to provide a one-stop shop for Spectrum Management. Genuine PMSE users were licensed accordingly. However, many exhibitors were demonstrating systems that deployed wireless technology but were not classified as PMSE use. JFMG cannot issue licences for these type of operations, which are classified as “Innovative radio transmitting and/or receiving stations and/or radio apparatus” – and require a Non Operational Licence from Ofcom. That doesn’t mean we took a jobs-worth, not us gov’nor attitude though. Instead we assisted applicants in acquiring the licence from Ofcom, providing advice, and in some cases producing the paperwork for them.
Typically, defence equipment uses military frequencies, and we were assisted by Ofcom in getting the necessary clearances required. However, with some systems operating in demonstration modes in licence exempt spectrum, there was the added headache of trying to ‘manage’ spectrum that is meant to be unmanaged – and ordinarily has offers no protection from interference.
But of course (and without giving secrets away!) technologies as these are designed with a fair degree of robustness and operate unhindered in some very busy, “free-for –all” frequencies. A particular focus was placed on the high profile Robotics & Unmanned Systems Showcase, where I provided technical support throughout each of the demonstrations – just in case!
In between watching the robots do their Runaround, I was able to play Catch that Rabbit with the spectrum analyser and picked up a couple of unlicensed users whose errant ways were quickly corrected. I also had a mill around some of the technology on display. There were tanks & planes; boats & hovercraft in the dock outside; the odd Chief of Staff, General, Vice Admiral, and foot soldier. Oh, and a fair amount of RF detection - with very clever software to identify 'intruders' from deep within the noise. Be warned. I've started saving....after which there’ll be no Escape!
With The Wedding out of the way, it’s time to sit back and relax here at JFMG, since it all gone quiet now. In our dreams. No sooner have the PSC crews flown home and the bunting come down, when the next series of events come along.
May through July are peak months for outdoor events. Crowds of folk gather in all sorts of locations - a patch of grass in north-west London, an air-field in Northants or a muddy farm in Somerset. And all these locations attract more than their fair share of wireless users who rely heavily of JFMG’s pot of frequencies and more, either as part of the event itself, or for TV and radio coverage.
Wembley Stadium was firstly host to the FA Cup Final; followed in short order by the UEFA Champions’ League Final. The former may be an annual event, but the demands of Hi-Def and 3D means spectrum demand moves upward every year. The UEFA game attracted a large contingent of visiting broadcasters, and placed an even greater demand on frequencies, with huge demand for talk-back, mics and cameras. This event also attracted on-site support; myself and Beverley were there alongside staff from Ofcom, with whom we worked in partnership to ensure frequency plans were adhered to and technical issues were addressed before it all (literally) kicked off.
Glastonbury was another event where JFMG set up shop. Simon was fortunate to be given some office space, so he could deal with the inevitable last minute requests. He also reports scurrying under the main stage to assist in resolving technical issues whilst one of the main acts pranced around above him and was there monitoring the spectrum when a popular beat-combo from Dublin were doing their bit.
Silverstone – as Bernie Ecclestone once described it “a country fair masquerading as a world class venue”. With £27 million spent on the new pits & paddock complex – AKA The Wing, the circuit is becoming a bit more polished. And the new layout means the teams and broadcasters have all relocated. For JFMG this means a going through a learning process as we get to grips with differences in coverage and interactions as a result of the changes. The first meeting this year was the FIA GT, which is relatively low key spectrum wise but wireless usage builds with the MotoGP and goes through the roof by the time the F1 comes to town (er, village?). The Moto allowed me to get both Antonios and Tristan out of the office and into the field to translate licensing and coordination activities into applied wireless use. At the F1, Jay was ‘embedded’, thankfully with an office and was joined by members of the Front Line team meeting our customer requirements right up until qualifying.
In a nutshell, site work allows us to get to appreciate physical deployment of systems, focus on meeting customer requirements right up to the point when it goes live and make sure it all works....but then, it’s also nice to get out of the office.
Big hats and tearful aunties, bulk catering and Dad’s dancing. All features of the Great British wedding that we know and love. But how about having a large flock of TV cameras pointing at your front door?? I refer of course to the world’s media on the doorstep of Buckingham Palace. Who inevitably had wireless devices coming out of their ears (in the case of IFB, quite literally).
The event provided an unprecedented challenge for JFMG. We had met with members of the broadcasting community shortly after Wills had popped the question. This gave us – JFMG and customers – and idea of likely demand, where frequencies would be required, and allowed us to target dates for applications and licensing.
Then it was all hands to the pump. Our front line staff had to sift through the mountain of applications, field an ever increasing volume of calls and of course extract payment. Then the technical team had to juggle the finite pot of frequencies in an attempt to keep all our customers’ needs met. And having created the frequency plan, we were also out there in the field making sure it all worked.
The numbers of frequencies assigned was a staggering 1058. The majority of these were required in key hot-spots between Westminster and Buckingham Palace.
During the week leading up to the Royal Wedding a number of last minute additions to the plan had to be met. Meanwhile staff in the field set up a monitoring vehicle in the main broadcast compound and helped resolve any technical issues, ensuring everyone was operating according to plan. But we didn’t just sit on our laurels, we also got out amongst the crowd where we identified a number of visiting news crews who were operating unlicensed wireless microphones in PMSE spectrum. As a result of collaborative working between ourselves and Ofcom a number of pieces of unlicensed equipment were seized.
On the day of the wedding, a greater degree of cable use was evident, compared to earlier in the week. We heard from one (non-licensed) crew that they’d heard rumours of equipment confiscation, and were opting to use cable on the big day.
I’m reliably informed by my colleagues that we’re going through the ‘quiet season’ right now. It may just be me, only it doesn’t seem as quiet as my first two winters at JFMG. Maybe it’s just that this spring is bringing a couple of extra events into the calendar, both of which look like they could be unprecedented in terms of spectrum demand. I am of course referring to two subjects close to the hearts and minds of the British public – The Royal Family and football (and you thought I was referring to curry & chips....)
The Royal Wedding is putting a huge focus around the whole of Westminster & The Palace, plus all points in-between and with Hyde Park thrown in for good measure. The UEFA Champions league is also putting a huge focus around Wembley Stadium, with Hyde Park thrown in for good measure. A very large space, smack bang in the middle of London – you can imagine how well that keeps RF contained.
With both events, we’ve been able to engage the main spectrum users well in advance of the events, holding meetings to get a full picture of where the demand lies, understanding what’s likely to dry up first; and how we can mitigate. It’s on occasions like these, flexibility is the key. The 16 channels programmed in your talkback may serve you well most of the year; but now’s the time to look for that programming lead. Got a 3GHz camera at the back of the warehouse?? How about blowing the dust off the lens and getting the battery on charge. Oh, and has anybody got VHF gear lurking about.....
Seriously though, both events have shown how JFMG & our customers can all work together in partnership, with the aim of making a finite resource (that’ll be spectrum) work to everyone’s benefit. And we’ll be sharing the pleasure (or pain??) on event days; on hand to resolve any unexpected issues, and if necessary tracking down any rogues. Both events will have Ofcom support – so please double check your frequencies; confiscation of that vital wireless mic during a piece to camera could be embarrassing.
I personally will be found close to the OB areas at both events. So if you see a harassed Field Engineer hunched over a spectrum analyser, offer him tea with milk, no sugar – oh, and a chocolate hob-nob.
With the days shortening, and the temperature plummeting, Cher and Christina were in town for the premiere of Steve Antin's movie Burlesque. So where better to spend an evening than in Leicester Square with spectrum analyser in hand. Maybe I'd been enticed by the idea of a provocative stage show??
However... my evening was to be spent out in the cold as the celebs arrrived.
I was accompanying Ofcom on its visit to investigate interference that had previously been reported on 2GHz camera frequencies. Typically, there were no actual problems on this visit. The event was fairly low-key, spectrum-wise, and with a low broadcasters' turn-out there was little scope for any issues. But we did briefly spot an unlicensed microphone carrier on our screens which then mysteriously disappeared. Thankfully there was no illegal use on the camera frequencies on this occasion, however Ofcom is keen to hear if our customers experience any interference in the future so that it can follow up again.
Of course a vital requirement, even at smaller events, is mobility. Even a low key premiere on a cold winter's evening attacts a crowd, thus event ID was essential to get around the operational area. I am thankful to our on-site customers for providing our accreditation.
Ascot racecourse - famed for its heritage, and a history that stretches back to 1711 when the first 'Royal' meeting was held. The racecourse retains some of that genteel charm from a bye-gone age, with staff kitted out in bowler-hats, and a strict race-day dress-code banning shirts, football tops and blue-jeans. So it was fortunate that I took a leaf out of Eddie Kidd's Levi advert and wore black jeans when I was there...
But enough of haute couture. I was there to investigate some spectrum matters. Ascot holds over 20 meetings a year, with nearly a third of all the UK's top level Group One races taking place here. Thus the course is no stranger to television coverage - and thus no stranger to PMSE spectrum use.
I visited the site to help track a persistent source of interference to wireless mics. So, as punters cheered on the runners in the Coral Ascot Hurdle, I milled around the grandstand with my directional antenna in-hand; then wandered around track-side where I bemused the bookies, and I even tried to remain discreet by the parade ring.
Having visited virtually all the public areas with a pistol-grip antenna and not got arrested, I turned my attention to another task - investigating how I could improve the otherwise poor availability of spectrum for wireless mics, monitors and in-band links at the racecourse. The lack of white-space was quite evident when I checked our own mic planner - of the 47 UHF TV channels available for coordinated PMSE use, only sixteen were clear for assignment at this location.
To resolve this, detailed off-air measurements were taken in the OB compound in order to better understand the true availability and level of overlap from no less than five television transmitting stations at this location. Back in the warmth of the office, the data was analysed and compared against standard protection ratios, then it was a matter of updating our systems where restriction could be relaxed. As a result, all but thirteen UHF TV channels are now at least partly if not fully available.
As well as spending two cold damp November days, staring at test-equipment screens, I also met up with some of the broadcaster's technical staff on-site and had a chinwag about some of the technical background relevant to deployment at Ascot.
The location deserves some further attention, and there's the potential for me to go back during the next Royal Ascot meeting. And I probably won't get away with my jeans on that occasion, black, blue or otherwise.
A full year has passed since the first posting on this blog, a full year since the last NFL game was played at Wembley Stadium. So here we are at the end of October, with another gridiron game on the cards.
This year the San Francisco 49ers played host to the Denver Broncos. Different teams maybe, but the same high demands on the same limited spectrum. Contact with my compatriots in the USA was made in July - well in advance, which was advantageous since neither team, nor their entourage, had played in the London game before or been exposed to JFMG's event planning process before.
The NFL have their own Radio Frequency Coordinators, and for the London game I had the pleasure of working with the coordinator from each team who could direct their respective teams and local broadcaster towards JFMG. Additionally, they were guided by another coordinator who had worked with me last year and was thus aware of some of the idisosyncrasies of working with Limeys.
Demand was particularly high for talkback: this spectrum supporting scrambled coach to quarterback communications along with the usual broadcasters systems and all number of walkie talkies, plus some comms for the 'Tailgate' party in the car park outside. And there were an awful lot of wireless microphones - doesn't anyone possess an XLR cable these days?
The mic bands were a challenge given the mixture of European and American equipment with different tuning ranges and resolutions. The location of the devices was likely to be anywhere in the stadium so I considered the worst case scenario and planned as if they were all in one big huddle. I was rightly pleased with the clean plan I came up with and with two weeks to go got all the licences out the door. You can imagine how pleased I was with one week left when last minute applications rolled in and I had to find nearly the same number of mic channels all over again. If I had hair it would have been coming out in clumps at this stage!
I spent three days on site this year. Friday and Saturday were both set-up days, and being on-site enabled last changes and compliance checks to be made before the game, which took place on Sunday. The NFL once again put up their 'Warning - Use of Wireless Devices' posters, warning unlicensed and uncoordinated users of punitive action if they were found out. As a result, I had a few visits from users who were either unlicensed or unsure, whilst a trawl around the site revealed a few other folk who had forgotten their obligations under the Wireless Telegraphy Act. As per usual, I used my 'carrot' technique to help users understand licensing requirements.
Match day was busy with some fine-tuning of frequencies, more last minute licences and even checking out some medical telemetry equipment on one of the players. The transmitter was located by his shoulder - meaning it was up about seven feet and well out of my reach. Amongst all the melee, there was time to watch a little of the game. Being a rugby fan, I find it odd - forward passes and no scrums? Oh, and for sustenance there was one of the Wembley staff canteen's famous meat pies.
Within minutes of the final whistle, with more than 88,000 fans filtering out, radios were being returned to the NFL Comms Room, broadcasters were tearing down, and the bowl at Wembley soon seemed eerily quiet.
It remains to be seen who will play next year - or if there will be a game at all. There's a threatened players' strike - referred to as a 'Lockout' which could put the whole 2011 season in jeopardy. But if the NFL circus comes back to town, then I hope to see you all back at Wembley.
Festivals and footie; motorsports and hairdressing shows. All obvious candidates for event coordination in the PMSE world. There's the occasional news event too, last year's G20 comes to mind. But most news comes and goes quickly, news gathering has to be lean and efficient, and spectrum availability rarely seems an issue.
However, this year's visit by Pope Benedict XVI's was identified as being more than just a news story and was soon deemed to come under our event planning processes. For a start, it was the first state visit by a Pope to the UK. The visit was going to be all over the map, scheduled to take in Edinburgh and Glasgow and then various parts of London, before moving on to Birmingham. Along the way there would be masses, a royal audience and popemobile drive-bys with the visit culminating in the beatification of Cardinal Newman as a "pastoral highlight".
As a result it was 'Big News' whilst also comprising a number of 'events'. In fact there were some 25 individual locations identified as venues for broadcasting. And with each of the four cities containing a number of these venues, spectrum was likely to be squeezed. Throw in some airborne use and some unrelated but simultaneous weekend televised sports, and it became clear that the pips were going to squeak.
We were fortunate to engage with the main UK broadcasters early on, and joined a meeting with them to gain insight into their plans and spectrum requirements. With the likely demand such an event places on broadcaster's resources, there was a high degree of cooperation between organisations that would normally be competitors. Pooling of production reduced duplication and thus the need for frequencies.
Given the geographical spread we were able to share the work load, with one of the team responsible for either Edinburgh and Glasgow, Birmingham or London. But demand was still very high, particularly at the 'event' locations, where as well as satisfying the requiments for broadcasters talkback, there were on-site communications systems and audio distrbution all vying for the same range of spectrum. Thus careful frequency planning was required to ensure on-site systems were compatible.
Additional requirements seemed to keep right up to the point where His Holiness was packing his D&G luggage and heading for Ciampino Airport, at which point we were getting our more modest luggage packed and ready for site work. The main event venues at Bellahoustan Park, Hyde Park and Cofton Park all had a visit from our team to conduct measurements of spectrum use and provide technical support where required. At a couple of the locations we were also able to hook up with Ofcom field staff who were conducting their own support activities on-site. Although there was some anecdotal evidence of brief operation on unexpected frequencies - put down to finger trouble - there were no complaints of any issues at any of the locations. And by the Sunday evening, as the Alitalia Airbus A320 climbed out of BHX, duty free rattling in the overhead lockers, our licensees would have been tearing down their antennas and suddenly the spectrum was quiet again.
With clear blue skies, record temperatures and threats of hose-pipe bans, it's easy to forget it's Wimbledon fortnight. But as truck-loads of broadcast hardware, along with the larger part of the UK's strawberry harvest, was being shipped to SW19, JFMG was squeezing a quart of spectrum requests into the pint of PMSE spectrum.
Whilst there are many events with more frequencies assigned, the Wimbledon challenge is meeting the ever growing demand for talkback, the majority of which are accomodated without borrowing in spectrum through Ofcom.
The Broadcaster area at Wimbledon is pretty tight, I do wonder how the drivers squeeze all the trucks in. They have my sympathies, since the same area is a hot-spot for comms frequencies. With antennas on trucks and all around the building roof, getting all the systems to behave without clashing with each other is a tall order - imagine two dozen five year olds, a sack of chocolate bars and a soft-play area. Now tell the kids to sit quietly. Get the picture?
Seriously, careful planning using specialist software ensured most of the operation went well, whilst a visit to site during set-up enabled me to deal with a few technical issues. Last minute requirements were dealt with right up to the first day with thanks to understanding customers and in some cases on-site access to radio programming software!
Fortunately, once the Championship was in full swing, the phone stopped ringing, and judging by the coverage on TV all went well - except for fans of Andy Murray...
This summer, Silverstone race circuit seems to be the focus for a number of the major motor racing events. The F1 GP is remaining here, after talk of it moving, whilst, on two wheels, the MotoGP and the WSB have upped sticks from Donington and headed south to Northants.
The move of some events from the Leicestershire circuit has alleviated the additional coordination challenge the adjacent airport used to bring, but planning spectrum use at Silverstone is still demanding.
I took on the task of planning the MotoGP. This was a walk in the park compared to Jay’s task of planning the F1. Fortunately for me, bikes don’t have pit to bike comms, or real-time telemetry, and neither does the bike racing attract quite the same media circus. So I was the lucky one, considering Jay had to coordinate over 1,000 frequencies for use over the F1 weekend. Although not quite ranging from DC to daylight, there was demand across the board from low-band VHF right into the gigahertz ranges.
With such a high level of spectrum occupancy, both events have attracted on-site support from both JFMG and Ofcom in the past, and both parties attended again this year. Between us, we were able to deal with any issues arising, from last minute frequency requests or changes to dealing with problems such as interference or compatibility problems between systems. Additionally we conducted monitoring of spectrum use, to ensure everyone had read their schedules!
At the F1 JFMG had the benefit of some on-circuit office space (see Jay hard at work in the photo above!), which gave us a base to deploy a wide range of measuring equipment, including a high-end monitoring receiver with powerful digital signal processing capabilitiies. This baby can intercept short-term signals such as data and PTT comms and display them after they've ceased transmission, a feature that makes it easier to track illegal or off-frequency transmitters.
However, all these toys didn't mean it was play time, and despite this year being my first visit to the F1, I'm sad to say that I didn't get to watch 'em howl. In fact, I didn't see any of the racing, just an awful lot of test-gear display screens! Maybe next year...
No I wasn't running this, be serious please. I was of course supporting PMSE activities for the broadcasters and the event management. This is an unusual event in that the 'location' is spread from East London right the way to Buckingham Palace. Whilst the broadcasters have numerous presence points at key spots along the route as well as a presence in the air, the event management team require communications along the whole of the route - quite a challenge for spectrum that ordinarily is deployed to cover short ranges.
Both before and during the event there were problems with interference. Our friends from Ofcom were present at the start and finish line, but realistically unless you were in a pair of lycra shorts with a number on your back, you were hemmed in by the huge crowds. Consequently it was difficult to track the source down. One particular source was persistent over the whole weekend and beyond, and had to be located. The day after the event, with the crowds out of the way, I joined one of the Ofcom engineers and went searching for the intruder.
Close liaison between Ofcom, the affected customer and JFMG, resulted in the signals being traced to a high rooftrop in the Whitechapel area of East London, some 7km from the start of the Marathon. The illegal transmissions were immediately closed down and the equipment, valued at around £2000, was seized. I was there on the rooftop with Ofcom, and don't mind saying that I was quite gratified when the kit was taken away.
The arrival of spring (?) has seen the days lengthen and the frost isn’t quite as hard. It’s also enabled me to get out to some of the locations where demand for in-band spectrum is highest and conduct survey measurements. Wireless microphones and IEMs, as Services Ancillary to Broadcasting, have to co-exist with high and low power television transmissions and exploit the ‘white-spaces’ between them. A quick check on JFMG’s on-line ‘UHF Mic/IEM/Intercom Location Planner’ will show the availability of this white-space at the click of a mouse. However, key locations often have demand that exceeds this availability. Thus I’ve been getting out and making measurements to supplement our computer modelling. The results are then fed back into our systems to improve online availability. Already, key locations in major cities, sporting venues and festival locations have been visited and users will already see spectrum being freed-up. The work is ongoing, so further improvements should be seen throughout the year.