NBC Connects Overseas at the Olympics with RTS Intercom

For the
2008 Olympics, NBC is using RTS RVON VoIP technology combined with RTS
Intelligent Trunking to create a global communications network with an
unprecedented level of connectivity. Bryan
Wilkins of Bosch Communications Systems had the opportunity to speak
with Bob Streeter, a communications veteran at NBC, about the intercom network
they are using at the Olympic Games this year. Increased use of Trunking and
RVON VoIP with an emphasis on remote manageability allows NBC to streamline
overseas communication for a smoother production process.

How many Olympic Games have you been involved
with at NBC?
Bob: I’ve
been involved with the Olympics since the 1996 Atlanta summer Olympics.
What is your role at NBC in relation to the Games
at Beijing?
Me and
my colleague Chris Papas support the stateside Olympic communications and also
the interconnect to China.
In which locations are NBC’s intercom systems
connected?
There
will be four intercom systems tied together in Beijing:
the boxing arena [The Worker’s Gymnasium], the main sports IBC [ International Broadcast Center],
the NBC newsgathering facility, and also the locations where NBC’s Today Show
and Nightly News will broadcast from.
Do all of NBC’s facilities use RTS?
The
vast majority of all facilities being used for the Olympics coverage use RTS
and Telex systems.
How many mobile units will be connected to the
intercom system?
There
will be more than six and they will be connected via RVON-I/O [VoIP Analog
Interface] at the venue.
How many users will be on NBC’s intercom network?
I’d say
well over 500 users overall. There will be 30 intercom systems trunked together
simultaneously and over a dozen directly involved with Olympics production.
Describe a typical user scenario on the system
during the Olympics.
Most of
our users will be on KP-32’s [32-position keypanels], many with [EKP-32]
expansion panels attached.
How long did it take to set up the system?
Obviously
there’s a great deal of planning that goes into a production like this. The
planning part took more than a year, and installation & testing took about 2-3
months.
Will NBC be interfacing with any older systems?
The trunked
intercom system at NBC in New York
has 24 trunked intercom systems on daily basis normally, and the additional
intercoms are added to this for the Olympics. As far as the older 9000 intercom
systems, we don’t use any of those.
Will NBC be expanding its use of RVON VoIP in Beijing?
We’ve
been using RVON technology since inception. We had over 200 cards within months
of its launch and we have built on RVON as long as it has existed. Our VoIP
structure even predates RVON so we’ve been using the protocol for a long time.
In past Olympics, the news venues had RVON since it was introduced. We didn’t
use it in the sports side until Torino. In Beijing, two of the sports
venue intercoms and the two news venue intercoms have RVON.
How important is remote manageability for an event
of this scale, and what role does the intercom system play in that?
Critical.
Absolutely critical. Remote manageability is a key feature that gives us peace
of mind and expedites our response to problems. We use it extensively- it’s
really an extension of what you do on a daily basis. The ability to have a tech
login from anywhere and see what’s happening is invaluable. Not a day goes by where
me or Chris don’t login and remotely manage the system with RTS products.
NBC is using AIO-16 cards which are new for the Beijing Olympics. What
functionality is enabled by these components that NBC didn’t have before?
The smaller
footprint allows for 50% less rack space. This is a very important
consideration.
How has NBC’s communications network been improved
since Torino?
The introduction
of trunking capabilities in Beijing
is something that differs significantly and has allowed for interfacing needed
communications due to the fact that some ops are stateside. Also, there is a
lot more RVON VoIP than ever before.

The Olympics are always a huge undertaking from a
broadcast standpoint. Does NBC cover any events that come close in scale?
It’s
difficult to compare, but I’d say election night probably comes the closest. But
that’s just one night though – the Olympics is three weeks long so it’s not
really apples-to-apples. The passing of Pope John Paul II was a big one for us
too. Considering the complexity & lack of time to prepare, it was just as
challenging. In terms of magnitude, the Olympics is the biggest event. The Millennium
was up there because we were covering that live from every time zone.
Is there much down-time between the conclusion of
the Beijing
Olympics and the next big event you’ll be working on?
Not at
all. In fact, midway through the Olympics we’ll be adding yet another trunked
intercom in Denver to our system for the news coverage of the Democratic
Convention, and within days after that, adding the intercom in Minneapolis for
the Republican Convention – three debates and Election Night follow closely
thereafter; so no, there’s not a lot of down-time this year.

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