Gearhouse takes to the court with FreeSpeak II
AUSTRALIA: At this year’s Australian Open, Gearhouse Broadcast Australia’s Event Communications division served the infrastructure required to support the domestic and international broadcasters covering the event, using Clear-Com’s FreeSpeak II full-duplex wireless communications system. This marked the first opportunity for the recently formed Event Communications division to cover the tennis tournament, which sees Gearhouse expand upon the responsibilities it undertakes at the event annually.
The FreeSpeak II systems, supplied by Clear-Com’s Australian distributor, Jands, were reportedly deployed for three of the broadcasters covering the tournament, including ESPN. ‘The main driver behind choosing FreeSpeak II was the limitations we face with regards to spectrum,’ explained manager of event communications at Gearhouse, Jason Owen. ‘Where there is simply not enough usable spectrum available to deliver what our clients need, systems like FreeSpeak II, which operate in the DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) class-licensed band, give us more flexibility. It’s a tool for us to use to save traditional LMR spectrum. It offers higher quality audio than a two-way radio, and because it’s a multi-channel device, it means users that currently wear two radios and two headsets can wear just one FreeSpeak II beltpack instead.’
A growing challenge for Gearhouse is being able to stay ahead of the ever-changing radio spectrum environment while customers increasingly rely on the use of wireless devices. At the Australian Open, Gearhouse implemented 26 FreeSpeak II 1.9GHz beltpacks with three FreeSpeak II-Base basestations that operated in the 1.897 to 1.933GHz frequency range, which is license-free around the world. ‘People want wireless connectivity, but sometimes the availability of usable spectrum limits the amount of concurrent services we can operate at one site,’ Mr Owen continued, ‘I’ve been using DECT products for over five years, and there’s not many places where that spectrum isn’t viable.’
Mr Owen also noted that Gearhouse provided the setup for several small studio spaces that were occupied by some of the visiting broadcasters. ‘They rent their own studio space, which we facilitate in terms of broadcast equipment,’ he said. ‘They have all the normal staff a broadcast studio would have, but they’re all on wireless comms; it forms an essential part of their workflow. So instead of wasting a two-way radio on such a small environment, we can use FreeSpeak II and free up UHF channels.
‘The FreeSpeak II systems worked flawlessly,’ Mr Owen concluded. ‘We’ve invested in Clear-Com because of our growth, having been contracted as the comms provider for several broadcast and live productions. We put FreeSpeak II into shows that other product can’t handle, and we plan to deploy double the amount of units on The Australian Open next year and also know we can rely on absolutely perfect support from Jands.’