IGC Upgrades Network Providing In-Store Entertainment at Military Exchanges
Intelsat General recently began delivering television and radio programming to more than 900 retail outlets operated by the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) at military bases around the world. But rather than transmitting the programming by satellite continuously so that it can be shown to customers on in-store monitors or heard over ceiling speaker in real-time, the service uses file-based distribution and broadcasting. This technology allows each store to have a custom video feed to match its time zone, local programing schedules, in-store specials and other unique local offerings.
AAFES operates retail department stores, clothing stores, fast-food restaurants and specialty stores serving active and retired military and their families in 30 countries, 50 states and 5 U.S. territories. Of the more than 3,700 facilities operated by AAFES worldwide, 940 of the retail outlets are equipped to receive programming from Exchange Television (EXTV), Business Television (BTV) and AAFES Radio Network (ARN) operated by the Dallas-based retail organization. EXTV shows product promotions, music videos, consumer information and original celebrity interviews to customers in lines at cash registers in the stores. BTV is used for distance training of store employees, while ARN provides in-store background music on two ad-supported radio channels.
Intelsat General was awarded a contract last spring to deliver the programming using three Intelsat satellites, three teleports and the IntelsatONEsm terrestrial IP/MPLS network. Tim O’Boyle, the IGC ground segment engineer who worked on the project, said the company drew on its experience upgrading the global network for the American Forces Radio & Television Service in 2011.
IGC’s ground segment team said the first step was upgrading the video distribution equipment at the AAFES Dallas headquarters and also installing state-of-the art baseband equipment, routers, switches and monitoring and control (M&C) systems. The company installed additional equipment to support the service at its Intelsat Secure Operations Center in Atlanta and at teleports in California, Maryland and Germany. The Dallas headquarters was then linked to the IntelsatONEsm IP/MPLS network so that the video and audio programming could be sent to the teleports. The services uses up to 9 MHz of capacity on three satellites to provide worldwide connectivity: Telstar 12 over Europe and Africa: Galaxy 18 over the United States and eastern Pacific, and Intelsat IS-19 over the western Pacific and Asia.
The endpoints for the programming are Wegener media servers located in each retail outlet. The servers allow for the asynchronous transfer of content to the stores in the form of individual media files. The file-based broadcasting model makes the use of bandwidth more efficient, giving AAFES greater programming flexibility to suit the needs and locations of the individual retail facilities. For example, an interview with a celebrity that is going to be shown on in-store TV monitors several times a day only has to be sent to the media server once.