Today we’ve just started test transmissions for our Gloucestershire multiplex, in preparation for the official launch on the 18th October.
This is a week or so later than we have recently blogged about. We’re also not testing the Herefordshire and Worcestershire multiplex, which we had previously mentioned we were planning to have on air at the same time. I just wanted to provide an update about why this is the case.
In some previous updates we’ve talked about some issues with BT. The way the multiplexes work is that we hook up stations to our network by putting in special lines into their studios. These are often special versions of broadband that guarantee certain bandwidth levels that means we will always receive their signals. These all come into our transmission provider’s multiplex centre and are wrapped together into a multiplex feed, this is then sent by telecoms lines to each of the transmitters.
Quite often transmitter locations are in the middle of nowhere, so our options for getting lines (and our signals) into the areas are quite limited. BT, as the UK’s legacy network provider, are often the only people that have the right connectivity to deliver our services. If they have problems or delays there’s often very little that we can do but wait.
And that’s the issue. BT currently have significant network issues that are affecting connectivity for our multiplexes in Mid and West Wales, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
To get Mid and West Wales and Gloucestershire on-air we have had to think somewhat creatively to get around these BT issues. So, both of these multiplexes are currently being fed by satellite. We’ve installed equipment at the multiplex centre to take the multiplex signal send it up to a satellite and then installed dishes at the transmitter sites to downlink the signal to get it to the transmitters.
As we are hopeful that this is only a temporary solution we are using existing equipment from Arqiva to achieve this somewhat over-engineered solution. Our issue with Herefordshire and Worcestershire is that we have now used all their ‘spare’ equipment on the other two multiplexes so can’t deploy the same solution for Hertfordshire and Worcestershire.
We’re working with BT to try and fix the connectivity at one of the three sites so we can either feed Herefordshire and Worcestershire direct or use some satellite equipment released from getting direct feeds online to M&WW or Gloucestershire.
To say we’re frustrated about these delays is a massive understatement. We’re having discussions at the highest levels of Arqiva and BT to get back on track.
Also, please remember that the Gloucestershire tests are just that – tests. This means that there may well be downtime for the multiplex or individual services between now and launch.