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Thursday 29 November 2018

This week the Media Technology programme was pleased to offer two days of sessions led by engineers from Arqiva. The communications infrastructure company is not well known outside of the industry but they provide the backbone for much of the country’s contribution and distribution requirements through their network of fibre optic cables and satellite links. Services they provide include TV, radio, mobile and more recently the Internet of Things (IoT). They maintain over 16,000 transmission sites including around 1500 TV transmitters and 1500 radio transmitters to provide over a billion hours of radio listening per week and 2000 hours of video a day!

We’re very lucky to have one of their major teleports located near Southampton and several graduates working for the company who are eager to share their experiences with our current students. A teleport sounds very Dr Who but in reality is a site that receives data streams and repackages them for transmission to their next destination.

On Thursday we were visited by Talent and Development Coordinator Tracy, Graduate OSS and Networking Engineer Elliot and Spectrum Planner Oli. Tracy introduced the company including its role as well as corporate values; she spoke about the numerous opportunities that the company provides such as internships, graduate positions and apprenticeships. The programme has a large number of our graduates at the company and it is noticeable that very few of them leave, which is a very good sign. Elliot then spoke passionately about his experience on the graduate programme and gave the students some top tips on applying and interviewing for positions.

Left to Right: Tracy, Elliot and Oli

The day was finished with a session by Oli on spectrum planning. Oli’s role is crucial to the success of RF networks but is perhaps one that isn’t often considered. It has been especially crucial in recent years as Arqiva have been tasked with clearing TV channels from the 700 MHz part of the spectrum to make way for 5G mobile and other data networks. Some of you may have had to retune your televisions as channels move from one area of the spectrum to another but the impact is even more profound on the transmitters. Many transmitters are narrowband - designed to work over a limited frequency range – or their distribution pattern changes considerably with frequency. This means that transmitters that worked at one frequency may not work at all or provide the same coverage with the new signals. Teams of engineers have been redesigning the network and have had to change several antennas to accommodate the changes. Oli showed some incredible pictures that demonstrated the scale of the challenge with helicopters lifting components into place and engineers perched hundreds of metres in the air to install them. We also learned about the modelling and planning required to ensure appropriate coverage around the country’s regions and topology.

The day was extremely insightful and we’re grateful to Tracy and the team for taking time out to show us their world. The following day we visited Arqiva’s site at Crawley Court for a tour and more technical talks – keep an eye on the blog for more information and pictures.

Top: Lifting new antennae Bottom: Comparing radiation patterns