MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — When Air Force troops here tire of doing work at their computer work stations, a click of the mouse can get them television anytime they want.
But they won’t find soap operas on their screens.
Most likely it will be what the commander wants them to know, but hey, nobody said the world is a perfect place.
Internet television, or IP-TV, is being introduced to computers connected to Misawa’s local area network, said 2nd Lt. Chris Beaver, information systems flight commander for the 35th Communications Squadron.
“It’s fairly new technology, and it’s saving us money,” Beaver said of the streaming television concept that delivers the commander’s access channel, and, for now, one of American Forces Network’s news channels.
Communications squadron books show $1.3 million of requirements from different offices on Misawa for such things as cable television hook-ups.
That means a lot of cable would have to be sunk into the earth to make the connections. So, Beaver said, Pacific Air Forces officials gave Misawa the go-ahead to use streaming data instead.
It’s the first Air Force base in the Pacific to introduce the system on a large scale and if successful could be implemented throughout PACAF.
“It’s the poor man’s solution that cost us $64,000 instead of the $1.3 million,” he said.
That money bought three Cisco brand digital servers and a few video cassette recorders. They make up the system that grabs a television signal off the base’s cable system.
Now military offices here can tune into the commander’s access channel, known locally as the “CAC,” to get the latest information during periodic base exercises or when weather warnings are posted.
“People need to know the latest information about wear of protective gear during exercises,” Beaver said. “They might not always get the word through telephone calls.”
Another potential use of IP-TV is content-on-demand for training purposes.
“There’s recurring annual training many military people have to fulfill,” he added. “The system can deliver training tapes to desktops.”
Beavers said a television camera can be tied to any connection to the base cable system to provide live coverage of such events as Misawa’s periodic town hall meetings. Programs can be taped and shown at other times for shift workers who may be unable to watch live broadcasts.
As the communications squadron expanded the system, there was some concern the system would use a lot of bandwidth, potentially limiting other base communications.
“Fortunately that didn’t happen,” said Airman 1st Class Matthew Hall, the communication squadron’s infrastructure technician. “Streaming video didn’t affect other systems; it uses very little bandwidth.”
Beaver said a push will begin soon to get more base computers hooked up to IP-TV, which requires only a five-minute installation of a special viewing program at each workstation.
Can viewers ever expect to see such offerings as ESPN sports added to the system?
“We’re probably not even going to consider that,” Beaver said.