Evertz XRF6 RF L-Band/IF matrix router
We've all become accustomed to the large and clumsy satellite antennas scattered around our facilities. Some sites look as if they were "planted" like a garden, while others seem to have been added as necessary. We've come to rely on the signals that they magically snag out of the air., and while the technology is pretty straightforward (for rocket scientists and RF engineers), at times satellite antenna systems (as-built, or in some cases, "as-evolved") can often be quite complex.
For example, one simple dish can have both C-band and Ku-band LNB's, and both of those will have both H and V outputs, making it necessary to distribute not one, but four L-band signals across a myriad of IRD's and receivers. With most stations having multiple dishes, wiring and distribution at its best can be complex, if not convoluted, especially if systems were added during a period of years.
To help straighten out this mess, Evertz Microsystems has developed the XRF6 RF-L-band matrix router. Such a router allows signal distribution from any RF source to any IRD/receiver at the touch of a button.
The XRF6 is a modular RF signal matrix router for both L-band and IF satellite signals. The system design is modular, and all modules are hot-swappable and front-loaded. Features include signal AGC, manual gain control, salvo operations, monitoring and alarm reporting for signal parameters such as signal presence and level. Control for the XRF6 is via Evertz X-NCP2 or CP22xx series router control panels, along with SNMP control via Ethernet using Evertz VistaLINK, or other monitoring and control software. For serial control, there's an available RS232/422 connection.
The XRF6L houses up to 64x64 configurations in a 6RU chassis, and the system is scalable up to 512x512 with the addition of multiple frames. Expansions can accommodate "non-square" matrix sizes and both redundant power supplies and system controllers can be added. The chassis accommodates four input cards and four output cards. Bandwidth is 40 to 2250 MHz and the system is modulation format-agnostic. Pass codes are included and up to eight salvos can be set. Input impedance is 75 ohms and BNC connectors are standard, with other 50 ohm connectors available optionally. In manual gain mode, the adjustment range is -–6 to +20 dB in 1 dB steps, while the AGC output level is –20 to –50 dBm. Frequency response is ±1.5 dB over the passband, with isolation greater than 60 dB input to output, and greater than 70 dB between channels.
After unpacking everything, I first placed the XRF6 chassis on a shop cart, along with a CP-2232E control panel. The Evertz "quick start" instructions provided information on cabling things up, as well as address settings for my laptop computer. At power-up, the CP-2232E recognized the XRF6 chassis, with "XRF6A Crosspoint Control," "XRF6A Proc Control," "XRF6B Crosspoint Control" and "XRF6B Proc Control" appearing in the left display. When I used the select button to choose SNMP, only the "proc" features were displayed. When I selected "router," the crosspoint controls were displayed.
I went through most of the control functions to see what sort of parameter adjustments were available and found selection between manual gain and AGC, squelch on/off, squelch threshold, upper and lower power thresholds, and more. After going through these controls and working my way through the router operations, I decided it was time to move to the satellite room and test the unit's capabilities to the test.
I used my spectrum analyzer to peak up on a good bird and then plugged the LNB output into "Input 1" on the Evertz XRF6's "input module 1" (on the backplane). I then connected a cable from "output 1" on "output module 1" to the spectrum analyzer and saw the selected satellite signal appear once again on the analyzer, just as before. By using the front controls on the CS-2232E panel, I was able to navigate to the processing menu for "input 1."
This time, the "input 1, input level" window indicated the signal arriving at –46 dBm. While monitoring the "input 1 manual gain level" window, I adjusted the gain setting control. I observed the signal going up and down in 1 dB increments, with fine adjustments easily accomplished. (If you try to adjust the gain with no input signal present, the display reads: "comm error." However, if you glance over to the input level meter, it's easy to figure out what's really going on.)
You may have noticed I haven't mentioned my PC yet, as this is something that I usually put that off until last. However, once I dialed my laptop into the right IP range (using NetSet Manager) and typed the proper browser address into Firefox, everything connected up perfectly.
The only thing remaining was to assign names to the sources and destinations. Rather than read the very thorough instruction manual, I asked someone at Evertz to give me the quick version. Using the connectivity I'd already gained, and with four or five mouse clicks, I was relabeling both sources and destinations. (I did discover that the software doesn't like the first character of a name to be a number. When you do, this the name just kind of totally disappears.)
The XRF6 is a piece of gear that I'd love to have permanently in my sat rack. It sure beats the heck out of fumbling behind racks with a handful of "F" barrels and jumper coaxes for directing your chosen LNB output to the right satellite receiver. And the processing function is really choice icing on the cake. After trying it out, anything else would be disappointing.
I suppose that it's a matter of preference and facility size, but from my own perspective, I found the local control panel is perfect for operation. The Web-based software is very capable, but, in my opinion is almost a bit too much. Also, when you order your Evertz XRF6, be sure to get a big one (lots of I/O), and also be sure to look for the LNB power option they'll be showing at the 2011 NAB Show.
Joey Gill is chief engineer at WPSD-TV in Paducah, Ky. and has been with the station for 30 years. He has worked in television since 1977. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.