The Next Generation of Full Duplex Wireless Comms
by Chris Dodds, Managing Director, The P.A. People.
Back in the early 2000s, a group of intercom engineers in the UK began experimenting with a technology called DECT to see if they could improve the current state of play in wireless intercom. DECT had its basis in the wireless telephone space and forms the basis of many domestic and commercial PABX wireless solutions. Back in the early days, DECT was limited to telephone quality and solutions had to be found to use multiple ‘time slots’ to achieve intercom quality, but the team succeeded and the first generation of FreeSpeak was born. It was expensive and far from perfect, but it showed that there was another way.
Fast forward a few years. After Clear-Com joined the HME family back in 2010, there was a mood to reinvigorate the FreeSpeak concept.
In 2014, Clear-Com released the FreeSpeak II. A completely redesigned beltpack, along with a new antenna transceiver, was released. The industry acceptance was significant and shortly after the product’s release The P.A. People were awarded the communications contract for the Inaugural European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2015 [CX Story here].
The production crew did not include full duplex on the original specification, but as the artistic component of the event developed, and after we had been appointed as contractor, it was determined that a full duplex solution would constitute a significant advantage for the Ceremonies.
In 2018 FreeSpeak II received an upgrade which significantly improved its performance and flexibility yet again. In response to a growing requirement for networked solutions, Clear-Com released a new Codec and a fully networked antenna solution for FreeSpeak II.
The upgrade consisted of a new AES67 card for the Eclipse range of Matrix Intercom frames and a new IP antenna transceiver allowing the IP system to run up to 10 beltpacks per antenna. Extensively tested by DORNA, the organisation behind the MotoGP competition, the new IP solution has found wide acceptance in the twelve months since its release.
At September’s IBC show in Amsterdam, Clear-Com changed the game again when they announced the release of FreeSpeak Edge, their latest addition to the FreeSpeak family.
Built from the ground up, FreeSpeak Edge is based on an all-new 5GHz chipset that features an exclusive radio stack development which has been optimised for intercom.
FreeSpeak Edge leverages the same Audio-over-IP development previously released for the FreeSpeak II product, utilising AES67 connections between the transceivers and the host intercom frame for exceptional flexibility in deployment.
FreeSpeak Edge is the most advanced wireless intercom system in the Clear-Com range, delivering the best audio quality and enhanced performance in some of the most complex live performance environments.
“FreeSpeak Edge is the future of advanced wireless communication,” said Bob Boster, President, Clear-Com.
“While some manufacturers are trying to improve incrementally on existing solutions, we have leapfrogged right to the edge of what is possible with wireless intercom technology today, in readiness for tomorrow’s increasingly demanding requirements. We often hear talk of so-called game-changers, but FreeSpeak Edge is the real deal.”
The 5GHz band is an ideal choice for large scale communications, as it can be managed with frequency coordination for reduced interference and offers the widest range of RF channels available for exceptional scalability.
FreeSpeak Edge takes advantage of Clear-Com’s exclusive RF technology which uses OFDM to provide a robust transport layer that is immune to most forms of interference. Not only does FreeSpeak Edge provide a new band for full duplex intercom, it also allows for the use of a mixed system using both 5GHz and 1,9GHz simultaneously.
FreeSpeak Edge transceivers and beltpacks offer more customisation and control than ever before to accommodate increasingly complex communication needs.
The beltpacks deliver the clearest 12kHz audio quality, with eight programmable buttons; rotary controls on both sides; and a master volume control and flashlight on the bottom. Clear-Com have also added a mic and speaker for headset-free or desktop operation. The transceiver supports 10 beltpacks and includes attenuation and external antennas for custom RF zones.
FreeSpeak now provides the best of all worlds. You can opt for the original DECT based FreeSpeak II full duplex system which is still the market leader, or from early next year you will be able to use the latest 5GHz based FreeSpeak Edge system.
Both systems can be used either fully integrated with a matrix, or stand alone with a base. FreeSpeak II has traditional antennas and splitters (simple to use and no network required), or either system can be deployed using IP antennas with 10 devices per antenna and works on a network.
They are scalable – you can use a few packs or a hundred. FreeSpeak in any flavour is the industry standard with literally thousands and thousands of systems deployed worldwide.
FreeSpeak just works. From the largest theatrical productions to sports presentation to corporate events, FreeSpeak II is currently available for hire from The P.A. People either as part of a full comms system package, as a standalone system to integrate with your kit, or simply some extra packs or antennas for your own system.
Meanwhile we look forward to adding the features of FreeSpeak Edge to our inventory early in 2020.
CX Magazine – Nov 2019 Entertainment technology news and issues for Australia and New Zealand – in print and free online www.cxnetwork.com.au
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