Rebuilding media in Iraq

by Staff Reporter | March 29th, 2013

 

Zaid Wattar, Managing Director, AV Solutions

Post-war Iraq continues to befuddle journalists and investors alike and the general sentiment is that the country is not at war, but the peace is uncertain at best. Zaid Wattar, Managing Director of Dubai-based broadcast systems integrator, AV Solutions, is optimistic and as an Iraqi national, he is not without a sense of pride in playing his part in nation building.

“For my generation that has seen war for the past 30 years, it is an opportunity to rebuild Iraq. The channel in question is uniquely dedicated to the important cause of higher education. This made it all the more special for me personally”

Having built a reputation for being one of the leading suppliers of broadcast technology to Iraq over the past eight years, Wattar’s large office in Baghdad with a staff strength of 23 bears witness to the confidence he has in postwar Iraq.“More than 90% of my current work is in Iraq. We have a large office in Baghdad with a team that is specialised in the areas ranging from satellite uplink and DSNG operations to designing and integrating studios and earth stations for broadcast clients,” comments Wattar speaking to SatellitePro ME in his Dubai Media City office.

“For the past two years, the Iraqi Media and Communications Commission (CMC) has introduced strict rules with regard to any uplinking system and that covers the antenna and power amplifier, among other products”

The systems design and integration for the fixed earth station for the TV channel, Al Jamiya, launched by the Ministry of Higher Education, is the most recent project and slated to be commissioned by mid-April 2013.

“There are many such projects in the pipeline owing to a government initiative to ensure that ministries dealing with areas such as health, education, interiors and so on, have television channels to allow them to communicate with the Iraqi people.”

Reportedly the 2013 budget with USD 118 billion bodes well for such projects in a country that has a population of around 30 million. Wattar’s association with the Ministry of Higher Education began when his company was consulted to draw up the RFP for the earth station. Conceding that the initial consultancy did offer AV Solutions an advantage when the tender was floated, for Wattar, the approximately USD 2 million project was a lot more than just another earth station.

Equipment

  • Modem (Exciter): Advent
  • Up and down-converters: Xicom Technology
  • High power amplifier: Xicom Technology
  • Spectrum Analyser: The Rohde & Schwarz
  • FSVR real-time spectrum analyser
  • Video monitoring: Sony Professional &
  • Marshall Electronics
  • Rackmount Digital Audio Monitors:
  • Marshall Electronics
  • Changeover switches, Waveguides: Xicom
  • Low noise amplifier (LNA).: SMW
  • EFP Kits: Sony
  • BUCs: Xicom
  • IRD (Integrated Receiver Decoder): Ericsson

“For my generation that has seen war for the past 30 years, it is an opportunity to rebuild Iraq. Given that the channel in question is uniquely dedicated to the important cause of higher education made it all the more special to me personally.”

Working with minimal margins, Wattar’s Baghdad-based project management team swung into action in December 2012 with site surveys and drawing up timelines for delivery, installation, commissioning and training.

“The civil works were already in place and other than minimal changes in terms of partitions for various operations, we faced no issues in this regard,”recalls Wattar, before giving us an overview of the more than 25 brands that have been deployed.

“We deployed Vislink’s popular Advent DVE5100 encoder/modulator. The system has Travelling Wave Tube Amplifiers (TWTAs) and full 1+1 redundancy. The DVE5100 series Digital Video Exciters are a combined HD / SD MPEG encoder, modulator and integral serial HPA controller, all contained within a single ½ width 1U-rack unit and allows the client to expand operations in the future with licence-based software.

“Since the new channel would need to generate content immediately and they actively cover news in local colleges and universities, we chose to deliver the two DSNG vehicles and electronic field production (EFP) kits at the outset”

“This is a practical choice for use inside a fixed earth station. It is compact, so saves on space, but more importantly, it will support High Definition broadcast for the client in the future. The Integrated Receiver Decoders (IRD) are from Ericsson that was formerly Tandberg Television.

“The high power amplifier was supplied by Xicom Technology with redundancy controls and the spectrum analyser was from Rohde & Schwarz. The power output supplied has two Xicom amplifiers of 400 watts each. If you use full power – you can transmit 25 to 30 megabit/s which can handle five channels on the same power amplifier.

“Clients in Iraq prefer more powerful amplifiers because of the high temperatures in summer, when, to ensure there is not too much stress on the system, they tend to use only 50% of the power or less.”

“The 2.4-metre Ku-band antenna is from US-based Andrew Solutions. We have a division within our company that is specialised in installation and satellite-based activities including DSNG operations. For this project contribution is via an Eutelsat satellite and distribution is via Nilesat.“ From the current single channel, the client, according to Wattar, will expand operations. In the next couple of years, the client plans to have four channels divided into scientific and cultural sectors to cover a wider spectrum of higher education.

The timeline and execution

At the outset of the project, Wattar’s team chose to deliver the two DSNG vans. “Since the new channel would need to generate content immediately and they actively cover news in local colleges and universities, we chose to deliver the two DSNG vehicles and electronic field production (EFP) kits at the outset.”

“There are many such projects in the pipeline owing to a government initiative to ensure that ministries dealing with areas such as health, education, interiors and so on, have television channels to allow them to communicate with the Iraqi people”

Wattar says that this particular project was relatively easier to execute because the clients were veterans in television broadcasting and were helpful and proactive during the process.

As a rule of thumb, Wattar’s team ensures two factors are in order – the installation equipment and paperwork regarding regulations stipulated for incoming satellite equipment.

“For the past two years, the Iraqi Media and Communications Commission (CMC) has introduced strict rules with regard to any uplinking system and that covers the antenna and power amplifier, among other products. Earlier, our products would be withheld at customs because the end-user had not been cleared by the authorities. Now, we work on these matters in advance and ensure that the client has the necessary paperwork ready.

“In the case of installation equipment that includes cables, rack systems etc, these are standard items and to avoid any delays at the outset of a project, we stock these items both in our Dubai and Baghdad-based warehouses.”

The training for staff with the current earth station project will be done in Baghdad and in Dubai.

“Some of the staff will be trained in the Harris and Sony premises in Dubai. Our team will also be on hand for technical training.

During the mandatory one-year maintenance period, problems rarely arise from faulty equipment. And if the client’s staff finds that equipment is not working, our one rule is: Do not try to fix it – call us.

“We have a deadline of mid April, but we should be done by end of March. The transmission equipment is HD-ready, but the channel will be transmitted in SD for now. The reasons are straightforward – barely 15 to 20% of television viewers have HD decoders at home and the cost of satellite uplink subscription is higher, but the systems provided will allow the client to switch to HD quite seamlessly.”

With similar projects executed for private Iraqi media entities such as Al Rashid TV, Al Sharqiya TV and Al Baghdadia TV, among others, Wattar and his team at AV Solutions, is building a reputation as one of major suppliers of broadcast technology into the Iraqi market.

Commenting on the potential as the country rebuilds, Wattar says, “The work that has been done is merely 10% of what the broadcast and media sector in Iraq  can offer.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zaid Wattar, Managing Director, AV Solutions

 

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