Cellular, Satellite or Fixed Link - how do you choose


Lorna Garrett TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
i

Having a choice is a good thing. Take apples, for example. While one may look pretty much the same as the next, we know that the subtle differences between varieties can make a huge difference in how we choose to use them some are best for pies, some better for cider, and others just perfect for eating from the tree.

Similarly, the subtleties between your digital video transmission options make each the perfect solution depending on the specific outcome you require most. When it comes to selecting between cellular, satellite or fixed line, one is not inherently better than the others; they each have their place. Is it bandwidth that matters? Flexibility, portability or mobility? Latency? Reliability? Video quality? Cost? Or perhaps a combination of them gives you the best chance to go live.

Lets take a look at the differences between each option to help pick the right choice.

Satellite: Out of this world advantage

Satellite has been the de facto standard because it gives you established stability and quality with a capability of transmitting speeds approaching 100Mbps of live video and audio. But now there are many satellite choices, such as Ku-band, Ka-band and BGAN.

The fact that you are transmitting a signal to geo-stationary satellites 36,000km above the earth is precisely what gives satellite transmission its advantage. They dont rely on towers or networks to operate, they are, to all intents and purposes, always there, and you know you will get what you pay for. Satellite is the hands-down choice in situations that are remote or where a volatile situation may need standalone solutions that arent reliant on ground power.

Large broadcasters have traditionally used satellite (Ku- and increasingly Ka-band) with their own fleet of trucks. The cost of the equipment and crews, the logistics involved in transporting it to where its needed, and the expense of booking satellite time have resulted in some broadcasters deciding to sell off their trucks. They have far from abandoned satellite though when the broadcast situation requires a high level of quality and reliability, they will still rely on satellite capability, often bringing in experienced and nimble third parties to provide connectivity and capability. Increasingly, broadcasters and service providers are equipping their trucks with both satellite and cellular capability to balance the reliability of satellite with the advantages of cellular delivery.

Cellular: Transmitting on the go

Which brings us to just what makes cellular unique and when to choose it. The cost of satellite means that broadcasters have to pick and choose when to broadcast live. With cellular bonding, you can broadcast live from just about anywhere, anytime and for a fraction of the cost. The equipment involved is easily transportable and quick to setup. Its also comparatively less expensive to operate than satellite, and although still not viewed as a 24/7 solution, it is a great live streaming technology.

Bonded cellular solution innovator and provider, LiveU, really burst onto the scene when NBC in the US used its LiveU units to broadcast newly elected President Obama as he travelled on his historic inaugral train ride from Philidephia to DC in 2009, a broadcast not possible with satellite. Carrying on the election theme, LiveU was used in the UK by Sky News for the last two UK elections. Using LiveU units, Sky made it into Guinness Book of Records by covering election night with 150 simultaneous live streams. Student broadcasters operated the LiveU unit at each polling station. The user-friendly interface on these units allowed them to easily operate the equipment after receiving just a quick briefing.

The mobility, flexibility and cost-effectiveness of cellular have helped it to transform live coverage, and have made it possible for a slew of new players to enter the field. In addition to all the major broadcasters here in the UK, including Sky, ITV and BBC, many other groups transmit using cellular solutions, including: multiple Premiership and lower league football clubs; horse, greyhound and motor racing organsations;, online sports organisations; event producers; universities; corporations; and even community groups. It was even used to get footage from boats during Cowes Week and the Round the Island Race on the Isle of Wight this summer.

As both cellular technology advances with 5G connectivity under trials and codec efficiency improvements with the introduction of HEVC its already envisaged that high-quality 4K transmission over cellular connectivity will not be far from reality.

Fixed line: Keeping it close

Fibre technology is developing at a pace. With operator backbones capable of seamlessly transporting Terabytes of data and installation becoming more prevalent and timely, fibre has become a key option for video transmission, offering up to tens of Gbps of speed, diverse paths for resilience and excellent latency. Many sports stadiums and venues employ permanent fibre connectivity. Other organisations connect venues on an event-by-event basis, especially on the international circuit.

Sky Sports makes good use of fixed links together with NTT 4K UHD HEVC encoders to deliver world-class quality live footage back to decoders from grounds, including for Premier League matches and Formula 1 coverage for onward broadcast to high-value subscription paying viewers. Increasingly, remote production can be done over fibre links, resulting in big savings on production teams, and enabling live coverage of events where such coverage wasnt possible previously due to the costs of on-site facilities.

Fibre is a dedicated capacity; its always there, but you are fixed at the location. The cost of installing fixed links can be high and it takes planning, so doesnt offer the flexibility of location needed to cover breaking news stories or mobile events such as cycling or marathon running. However, fibre continues to develop. Global connectivity companies now offer super-high-capacity connectivity networks, where the local challenge is to inject into their many PoPs worldwide to carry TV and event traffic across the world. This is then dropped out locally to broadcasters subscribing to live content for their regional viewers. Discussions are taking place already to use cellular or Ka-band technology to provide that local injection a definite harmonisation of connectivity technologies for global benefit.

Bringing it all together

Each of these digital video transmission options is available and plays a unique, yet vital role. Sometimes you might find the best choice involves selecting a hybrid capability that merges options into one perfect solution to meet all of your needs. For example, covering a major sporting event, such as the Olympics, may use fixed fibre links from the stadium, satellite transmission to cover downhill skiing, and cellular links to follow the crowds favourite marathon runner around the course to get those unique viewpoints. Each contributes towards a great viewing experience.

Increasingly, employing just one connectivity option isnt sufficient for the content being delivered. This is especially the case in premium sports. Fibre can be the primary feed, backed up by either satellite or cellular. In extreme cases, where every second can mean revenue to a broadcaster or betting company, all three technologies are deployed for a true belt-and-braces insurance policy against failure.

Its clear that satellite, cellular and fixed fibre links will co-exist for a long time to come. The choice of connectivity technology will depend on the type of event, your audiences demands, your budget, and the level of risk around reliability and quality you determine to be acceptable. Your choice is also linked to the value of the content youre providing. Always remember: in the world of live broadcast , no one wants to finish second, or worse still, not finish at all.


Tags: iss127 | liveu | garland | tranmission | uplink | cellular | Lorna Garrett
Contributing Author Lorna Garrett

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Related Interviews
  • LiveU: Smart Grip at NAB 2013

    LiveU: Smart Grip at NAB 2013

  • LiveU at NAB 2012

    LiveU at NAB 2012

  • LiveU at IBC2011

    LiveU at IBC2011

  • LIVEU Workflow solutions at NAB 2015

    LIVEU Workflow solutions at NAB 2015

  • LiveU at IBC 2012

    LiveU at IBC 2012

  • Garland at BVE 2017

    Garland at BVE 2017

  • Garland Partners at BVE 2012

    Garland Partners at BVE 2012

  • Telestream Live-U Backpack at BVE 2013

    Telestream Live-U Backpack at BVE 2013

  • 4k and HEVC with Garland at BVE 2018

    4k and HEVC with Garland at BVE 2018

  • Garland Partners at BVE 2016

    Garland Partners at BVE 2016

  • Teracue IQ Grid and Media Excel shown at BVE 2018

    Teracue IQ Grid and Media Excel shown at BVE 2018

  • SIS LIVE and their products ManPak and DriveForce at IBC 2013

    SIS LIVE and their products ManPak and DriveForce at IBC 2013

  • SIS LIVE at IBC2011

    SIS LIVE at IBC2011

  • Dejero on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Dejero on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Dejero LIVE+ VSET at NAB 2013

    Dejero LIVE+ VSET at NAB 2013

  • Dejero + Nucomm Connect Live at NAB 2013

    Dejero + Nucomm Connect Live at NAB 2013


Related Shows
  • Using cellular networks for video capture

    Using cellular networks for video capture


Articles
An Epiphany Moment
Peter Savage 2 I had been negotiating the sale of my company and had reached the really hard end of the bargain. We were close to agreeing the final sum after a lot of too-much-give-and-not-enough-take negotiation. The solicitors were calling me, keen for a deal. It had come down to one sticking point and, in my hard ball “I am the Wolf of Wall Street” guise, I wasn’t going to let it go. It would make a value difference of 1.5% on the total outcome. Not much, you might think, but I had already nearly fallen out with the solicitors over their fees and I was giving my advisors an extremely hard time because the corporate adviser couldn’t see how I had already given more than an inch and the buyers were taking more than a mile. I was not going to let them win.
Tags: iss134 | azule | finance | Peter Savage 2
Contributing Author Peter Savage 2 Click to read or download PDF
An Obituary to Timecode
Bruce Devlin - new A stoic and persistent character that stubbornly refused to change with the times, Timecode has finally passed on, but no-one has noticed. A long-lasting industry veteran, Timecode was brought into this world at an uncertain date in the late 1960s due to the needs of analogue tape workflows and the demand for synchronisation between audio and video devices. A joint activity between SMPTE and the EBU led to the work on Time and Control codes starting its journey to standardisation in the early 1970s.
Tags: iss134 | timecode | smpte | ebu | edit | Bruce Devlin - new
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin - new Click to read
Giving Welsh sport a global audience
Adam Amor From the Ospreys Rugby Union team, to the Football Association of Wales, as well as national cycling, swimming and boxing coverage, Port Talbot based Buffoon Film and Media has been heavily involved in putting Welsh sports on the world stage.
Tags: iss134 | blackmagic | atem | buffoon | micro studio camera | Adam Amor
Contributing Author Adam Amor Click to read or download PDF
State of the Nation - November 2018
Dick Hobbs - new There is an interesting seminar called Size Matters at the KitPlus Show – organised by the publishers of this fine magazine – at MediaCityUK in Salford on 6 November. It’s a talk by cinematographer Alistair Chapman on the way that camera technology is changing, and in particular the size of the electronic device which creates the image is growing.
Tags: iss134 | cmos | 35mm | AJA | Arri | Blackmagic | Canon | Datavideo | GoPro | Grass Valley | Hitachi | Ikegami | JVC | Kinefinity | Nikon | Panasonic | Red | Sony | jpeg2000 | Dick Hobbs - new
Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new Click to read or download PDF
University and Mental Health
Rhiannon Jenkins University study and mental health has been in the media quite a bit over the last year, and I’m sure there are many people wondering what is going on? The issues are complex, and I suppose the focus of employability off the back of a degree course has raised the stress stakes for a lot of young people. I’m only qualified to talk about this from my perspective, and my story began when I joined a course not knowing I had a mental health condition.
Tags: iss134 | portsmouth uni | mental health | student | tvfutures | Rhiannon Jenkins
Contributing Author Rhiannon Jenkins Click to read or download PDF