TECH SPOTLIGHT

Next-Gen IP ENG Makes Use Of Multiple Links

With bonded cellular now a widely accepted ENG tool, vendors will show new gear at NAB that is smaller and lighter and enables broadcasters to use other communications links like Ka-Band satellite to enhance the reliability and performance and reduce latency.

Cellular bonding, the technology at the core of IP newsgathering, has turned an important corner in the minds of broadcasters, transitioning from something regarded as a bit of a mystery only a few years ago to a well understood component of daily news contribution.

“Right now is the coming of age of cellular bonding technology,” said Ken Zamkow, LiveU head of marketing for the United States and the Americas. “Stations are beginning to regard cellular bonding in the same way they do satellite when it comes to reliability, picture quality and latency.”

LiveU is among several vendors that at the NAB Show next month will be offering new and improved IP newsgathering products. Overall, they are smaller and lighter and come with the promise of improved performance like the ability to mix and match multiple IP communications links.

“We are seeing demand for systems that aggregate not just cellular signals, but all types of signals, including satellite, Ethernet, Wi-Fi and even more traditional microwave contribution,” said Eric Chang, vice president of product management for TVU Networks, another IP newsgathering system vendor.

Relying on multiple sources of bandwidth gives broadcasters greater confidence that their news crews will be able to file reports successfully because they aren’t relying on single communications system, says Chang. 

The pairing of cell networks with Ka-band satellite is one example of how multiple, diverse wireless connections for IP transport can deliver better performance than a single bandwidth source.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

Bill Nardi, vice president of broadcast integration at Dejero, said bandwidth aggregated from cell phone circuits and Ka-band connections can turn what otherwise might be an unacceptable data path for news contribution into a robust transport.

“A year ago, the whole feeling among broadcasters was that Ka-band was terrible due to rain fade, but we’ve gotten past that,” said Nardi. “Cell modems may only need to deliver about a half meg [500 kilobits per second) to offset the rain fade problem. Seeing is believing.”

Nardi added that Ka-band is a cost-effective alternative to conventional Ku-band satellite news gathering and promised demonstrations at NAB that will show it “works really, really well.”

In the LiveU exhibit at the NAB Show, the focus will be on greater portability resulting from a new smaller, lighter IP newsgathering encoder. The company will launch the LU500, a 2.2-pound IP newsgathering encoder that offers the same performance of its bigger, 11-pound predecessor, said Zamkow.

Improvements, such as better antenna technology, H.265 High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) encoding and the ability to accommodate more cellular modems in a smaller package make possible the reduction in weight and size without the need to sacrifice performance, he added.

TVU will be demonstrating a diverse set of developments at the NAB Show, said Chang. “We will be talking about vans and trucks at NAB and how TVU Pack [bonded cellular system] can be used to aggregate bandwidth in ENG and satellite vehicles.”

According to Chang, TVU also plans to underscore the importance of Android and iOS mobile devices as news links with its TV Anywhere application as well as the latest developments of its TVU Grid system, which enables individual stations, station groups and networks to distribute, route and switch raw news footage and edited stories as IP data via a private cloud.

Teradek is tapping into the cloud for contribution, switching and distribution with its new Core product. Jon Landman, vice president of sales, said the concept involves is moving all of the essential tasks associated with contributing and managing content to the cloud so there can be “unlimited sharing of sources.”

“Core will enable you to light up any Teradek encoding product that would point to the cloud, record in the cloud, manage content in the cloud, route in the cloud and drag and drop content to decoders wherever they happen to be –all while continuing to record,” he said.

The cloud will be also significant part of the Streambox exhibit at the NAB Show, CEO Bob Hilderman.

Streambox will show how CNN used the its software encoder running on a laptop to feed coverage of the crisis in Ukraine from a SNG vehicle to the cloud for transport back to the network, he said. “This mode of transport is something very few broadcasters know about.”

Streambox also will highlight technology that makes delivery of news content via IP more reliable, Hilderman said. “We have built reliable networking technology into our encoders, into our servers and into our decoders that has moved beyond FEC [forward error correction]. It provides a much smarter and a more reliable way to recover lost data packets.”

JVC will expand its presence in the IP newsgathering space at the NAB Show with the launch of the GY-HM850 and GY-HM890 ProHD camcorders with integrated IP streaming processors from Zixi.

The camcorders come to market along with the company’s new ProHD Broadcaster. Available as a standalone server as well as a cloud service, ProHD Broadcaster improves the receive side of the IP contribution equation, said Dave Walton, JVC assistant vice president Marketing Communications.

Together the camcorder encoding and server decoding allows for HD live streaming to be maintained with up to 30% packet loss, he said.

IP newsgathering vendors did not seem to be overly concerned about the integration of IP encoding technology directly into camcorders. “When you have a single modem card, you are relying on transmission coming from only one provider,” said Chang. “If that carrier doesn’t have good coverage in the area where the camera is being used, that will impact quality.”

Camera-integrated IP processing is actually a positive for IP newsgathering vendors, said Zamkow. “We view it as an opportunity for these cameras to connect to our backpack wirelessly. Customers can rely on the camera for convenience and use our connection to transmit a reliable signal back to their stations.”


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