Qatar TV builds earth station

  • TV Station
  • Broadcasting
  • events

Qatar TV’s first earth station became operational last month. In an exclusive interview with BroadcastPro Middle East, systems integrator INC shares details of the project

Qatar’s Television Support Development Committee (TVSDC) recently undertook a project that included developing an earth station and enabling the transmission of a new five-channel bouquet on two different transponders, one belonging to Arabsat and the other, to Nilesat. The 3G/HD-SD/SDI-ready project was undertaken by Dubai-based systems integrator INC in conjunction with General Dynamics (GD Satcom) and Ericsson.

“This is QTV’s first earth station although there are many earth stations in Qatar for other broadcast networks,” says Samer Younes, consultant engineer for TVSDC and Qatar TV projects.

“This will enable Qatar TV to provide high-quality signals and add more channels in the future without any disruption or interference.”

The entire solution features a satellite communication system that presently supports up to five video and audio services, two consisting of a high definition (HD) package. It can be further expanded in the future to accommodate two additional TV channels. All carriers are multiplexed in the same carrier at 22 megabits-per-second (Mbps) and transmitted simultaneously on Arabsat and Nilesat. The compression system for this project was integrated and commissioned by Ericsson while GD Satcom integrated and commissioned the transmission system.

Tariq Qahwaji, operations manager at INC System Integrations, says the project was strategically broken down into three phases to comply with the client’s deadline.

“Two of our teams worked in parallel on site to meet the deadline. The first team included systems engineers while the second team had experienced mechanical engineers. The first phase required building the foundation and the shelter room, prior to the installation of electronics and a mechanical system for the antennas. In phase two, both systems were installed, configured and commissioned while the second system was completed in phase three,” he says.

The end user’s main aim was to have its own teleport for transmitting its five-channel bouquet — DVB-S2 modulated carrier — on Arabsat and Nilesat satellites. The DVB-S2 modulated carrier carries the three SD channels and two HD channels.

The setup can be expanded to add two more channels to the new bouquet in the near future and transmit data packages as well for home users if the flexibility is required.

“The dynamic nature of projects of this scope and magnitude is best exemplified by the significant modifications made during the design phase of this project. These changes were made in a collaborative manner while soliciting and obtaining end user input that was used in crafting the final equipment configurations. Using a very interactive and collaborative design approach, our team was able to deliver a comprehensive solution to the customer,” adds Qahwaji.

This equipment was chosen because it is state-of-the-art and due to the fast delivery time. As the project included a completely new installation, it was not integrated with any other systems.

The new earth station, however, has been integrated with the new channels through fiber links between the shelter, which houses the new systems, and the baseband facility.

The aggressive project delivery schedule was perhaps the main and most critical challenge facing the team. The risks associated with being late and missing the contractual delivery requirements were mitigated through a combination of careful and thoughtful planning and close coordination between INC and GD Satcom, says Adeeb Abed, general manager of broadcast, INC System Integrations.

“We had a three-month time frame within which the work had to be completed since the time the contract was awarded. The first system was commissioned including carrier line-up in March, 2012. The second station was commissioned and accepted by the end user in April 2012. We had only three months to complete and deliver both systems to the end user, so that they could broadcast their services as scheduled. But at the end, we successfully handed over both systems as requested by the end user.”

That was made possible thanks to a bold decision made early in the project life cycle to air cargo all of the project materials, which dramatically reduced the time to get project materials on the job site, according to Abed.

It enabled the project to begin the site activation four to six weeks earlier than would have been possible otherwise.

“The team carefully assessed the complexity of the site layout and limited time frame in order to come up with a site activation plan that was based on working efficiently and with great precision, as any mistakes would inevitably cost the project valuable time and result in failure to meet the project delivery schedule,” says Abed.

He says the close coordination between GD Satcom and INC made it possible for the team to execute the project to the end customer on time.

The systems design incorporates auto redundancy at all levels to guarantee its operational integrity in the event of an equipment failure. Using this design approach, a restoration plan is executed automatically in case of failure in order to recover data and maintain service, he adds.

The team was significantly involved in the planning of the project life cycle to mitigate the risks and anticipate delays once the construction phase had been deployed.

“Planning activities were mutually developed by INC and GD Satcom to clearly detail all project activities and provide all project participants with a fully integrated project schedule. An extensive virtual design review meeting was conducted early in the project life cycle, enabling necessary changes to be made to the system configuration without delaying the overall project completion date,” adds Abed.

An early and thorough site survey was performed by an assigned GD Satcom expert. The engineer surveyed the site location and collaborated extensively with INC and the end user during the visit to the job site.

An experienced field engineer prepared a site layout plan needed to design and accommodate multiple antennas with line of sight to the entire satellite arc without interference. Using information from the site survey, the site activation phase was then planned in greater detail, to accommodate the time required for site prep work, civil works, and a site readiness visit.

As the civil works and site preparation work progressed, the satcom systems supplier organised a second trip to the site for a site readiness visit. The scope of this trip included a verification of the proper location and placement of the foundation embedded hardware prior to the pouring of the concrete for the two main 7.3M antennas.

“Good engineering practices and necessary checks and balances helped avoid potential delays,” says Qahwaji.

“Finally, all of the electronics equipment were fully integrated and tested in the factory prior to shipment to the site. This is a critical and necessary step to ultimately ensure a smooth and timely execution of the field installation, test and commissioning. Any problems or issues that arise during this factory integration and test phase can be fixed quickly and efficiently in the factory setting, consuming significantly less time and effort than if the problems were to be discovered in the field during site activation,” he adds.

Comprehensive customer training was provided to ensure key operational and maintenance personnel were certified to operate and maintain all of the project equipment.

“This training was specifically tailored to the needs and experience levels of the trainees. The proper level of training ensures that the end customer will be able to properly operate and maintain the equipment. This assures both the protection and long life of the earth station equipment and a high level of customer satisfaction in their capital investment,” adds INC’s Abed.

Accelerated project completion was successfully facilitated by establishing a detailed design review in the early stages of the project including identifying and finalising the shipment of key components to meeting the scheduled deadline.

INC adds that the timely completion of the project was possible owing to careful planning and close cooperation between INC, GD Satcom and the TVSDC staff.