Ground Control. Satellite has had its day….

Outside broadcasting
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Let’s be clear about this – for the time being satellite is still going to be the preferred and trusted backbone for teleporting video around the world. That said – more and more of us are turning to IP based systems to deliver our video to far flung locations. IP video can literally girdle the earth.

None of this is new, for those of us working in news gathering – IP based video contribution has been around more than a decade. From the early store-and-forwards to the early pioneering, if not low quality, video feeds from far-flung locations – usually connected to a low power data satellite like a BGAN.

Traditionally the big broadcasters are hesitant about IP based video systems… to an extent. On one hand, when no other option is available, the technology has been embraced and indeed actively developed by the broadcasters. On the other hand, you can always expect someone to suck their teeth and talk about resilience and reliability.  

Today it feels like we are at a tipping point, the moment when more and more contribution is by IP but also we can start to realistically use the same technology for distribution. The best thing about this is that the same tools that can get a contribution from a remote location can also be used to send a signal to a remote location.

Apart from worries about resilience – the biggest problem for a big broadcaster is how to put public facing IP systems into a secure broadcast environment. Many of these systems will operate poorly behind large corporate firewalls and the risk of a hack makes them just too risky for some.

That is one of the things we have recognised here at Celebro Media Studios. We are specialists in IP transmission, contribution and distribution and are finding more and more big broadcasters turning to us to wrangle the difficulties IP video. More and more we find ourselves operating as a kind of ‘IP call centre’. This works in three ways:

  • Contribution

Our MCR takes in IP based contribution from around the world and then teleports them on to big broadcasters via traditional fibre lines or satellite. This could be a reporter via Streambox or a member of the public at home using Skype TX (Skype TX is a new pro-version of Skype that gives a higher quality and management signal from any domestic skype)

  • Distribution

Equally we can use and IP encoder like Streambox to get a signal from one side of the globe to the other in full 4K – before porting the last mile via BT tower. As far as the broadcasters is concerned – the signal is the same and they need not even know it has been sent via IP.

  • Transmission

That also works the other way around – we can take a signal from BT Tower and teleport that in full HD or 4K to any location with no traditional broadcast infrastructure. A good example would be to send a show or conference to an audience sitting in a hotel on the other side of the world.

So the real advantage is not the cost saving but the access and rapid deployment that IP delivery allows. There are literally thousands of broadcasters around the world who have no access or satellite or lease lines and are therefore trapped in a broadcast world where nothing can ever be received live. No wonder so many have turned to Skype and Facetime – regardless of quality – to get contributions to air.

The challenges of IP will always be the balance between latency (delay), picture quality and resilience – but as internet capacity becomes cheaper and more available – those issues are becoming less and less prominent.

There will be plenty of people who say IP will never be as reliable as satellite – not only are they wrong – they are also railing against the inevitable. IP video distribution is not only cheaper than satellite but, more importantly, it is an enabler –  a way to deliver video to places where a dish just cannot be deployed. Certainly there are compromises but the advantages and access outweigh the risks. Satellite video was out of this world – IP video will keep its feet firmly on the ground.

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