Telex builds Legacy with football coaches

By Carolyn Braff

A heavy hitter has just expanded its dominance of the college football scene, but this team has neither a mascot nor a marching band. Telex Communications, the number one provider of wireless communications systems for football teams across the country, has just sold its BTR-1 wireless coaching communications technology and headsets to an additional 27 Division I college football programs.

The latest sales round up Telex s client numbers to an even 90 (of the 119) Division I programs in the nation. Taking into account older versions of company software, approximately 98% of all Division I programs use Telex wireless headsets when they take the field.

The BTR-1 utilizes a radio system that has been developed for use by broadcasters essentially for wireless microphones, explains Mark Gubser, product manager for Telex. The system operates in the UHF frequency range of 482 MHz 746 MHz, which requires a license to operate. The audio is encrypted with a 32-bit proprietary encryption log developed by Telex.

Although the radio signal is analog, the BTR-1 uses a fixed frequency system to transmit from the base station to a belt pack on one frequency, and from the belt pack to the base station on another frequency in order to obtain full duplex communications. It s a digital system where we convert analog to digital and then convert digital back to analog, Gubser says.

The BTR-1 connects up to 20 coaches on one sideline via Telex s secure, wireless headsets. Although Telex has also created some specialized installations of the BTR-1 for broadcasters, the system was designed specifically for football.

In January of this year, Telex released a more basic version of its football coaching system to offer wireless communications to smaller football programs. In less than nine months on the market the Telex Legacy system already boasts nearly 500 clients in high school and college Division II and III programs. We re selling systems daily now because the season s so close to starting, says Marc Archer, Telex director of strategic marketing and sports communications.

The Legacy system, which is based on an 802.11 Wifi network protocol, operates in the 2.4 gigahertz license-free band and includes a 64-bit audio encryption.

The Legacy gives coaches between two and 10 wireless headsets per sideline and automatically sets the wireless system to the clearest operating channel. The system is designed to work in stadiums that hold up to 15,000 fans, but was tested in Texas Memorial Stadium, which holds over 81,000.

The Legacy is a much smaller, more portable system, Archer says. It s also much cheaper. Archer explained that colleges pay anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 for a full Telex system like the BTR-1, but high schools simply do not have those resources, so Telex priced the Legacy between $3,000 and $7,000, a far more reasonable expense for a high school budget.

Telex is also cementing its monopoly on the professional market. For the 2006 season, all 32 National Football League teams continued their 20-year-strong relationship with Telex by upgrading their sideline technology to the BTR-1 system. Teams were previously using a Telex BTR 600 fixed-frequency system.

It was a crystal system, explained Gubser of the BTR 600. There is an actual crystal that determines what frequency you re going to transmit on and you can t change it. The BTR-1 utilizes a single frequency, but the system is frequency-agile in 18 MHz bands, so we do have some flexibility to change to different frequencies if we need to.

Telex is the only company ever to have supplied sidelines communication technology to the NFL.

The Canadian Football League and Australian Football League have also purchased BTR-1 systems and headsets for their member teams, and are integrating them into the ongoing 2006 season.

The NFL and Division I schools insist on using Telex, and that s starting to become the case with high schools as well, Archer said. The technology has worked in a much more superior way to anyone else, and that speaks for itself.

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