Controlling the Chaos of Remote Uplinks


Roger Franklin TV-Bay Magazine
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For Satellite Broadcasters, consumer needs have never been so varied. Audiences are increasingly accustomed to personalisation in every type of content they consume. They now demand, or rather expect to receive breaking news from a scene, content specific to their regions and access to live sporting events held thousands of miles away.

As a result, satellite transmissions, especially those for broadcasting, are increasingly dispersed and dynamic. This diverse content also needs to be delivered to multiple platforms in order for broadcasters to remain competitive. Ultimately, the need for numerous remote stations controlled by one central facility has grown exponentially, as has the need to continuously monitor these transmissions and quickly react to problems.

Challenges Facing Broadcasters

The issues caused by remote uplinks don't necessarily present themselves immediately at the point of transmission. Indeed, the challenge lies with problems which may not become apparent until long after the remote stations have transmitted their feed. Unfortunately, most remote stations are unlikely to be manned by a satellite engineer. More often than not, the stations are manned by unskilled workers unable to spot errors in their feed and certainly unlikely to be able to resolve these issues.

Satellite interference is a contributor to outages and can often be traced to human error or equipment failure. The challenge with the latter is that it may not become apparent until after a consumer complains of an error in their feed, or a disgruntled advertiser points out that their advertisement failed to appear when they requested. If the malfunctioning piece of equipment is normally offline because it is only a backup device, it can take even longer to notice.

Regional variations in advertising, not to mention the physical challenges of managing multiple transmission sites, presents a range of potential problems for broadcasters. Wider issues include defective feeds which may not arrive intact, content failing to adhere to distribution rights in a certain country or live content with a high latency.

Other factors out of your control, such as weather, can have a huge impact on all types of broadcasting systems. The effect of weather is easily overlooked at unmanned sites in particular. If there is no human presence to pre-empt that a system may fail as a result of the weather they are observing, there is no way of preventing a problem from occurring.

Solutions to Remote Uplink Errors

To combat the risk of potential errors when transmitting from remote stations, they key is continuous monitoring of broadcast systems. The problem here is that most diagnostic tools which are also able to resolve issues are expensive, not to mention that all remote sites must be covered and the requirements of each are likely to be different. As a result, broadcasters may only have one system, requiring relocating and connecting only after they are alerted to a problem. Failing to act before a problem occurs is not ideal, resulting in potentially bigger issues in the long run.

So, naturally what is needed is a central monitoring and control solution that is then connected to all of the remote sites and can view and control the systems locally as well. This can get expensive, but there are cost-efficient ways of doing this, such as using basic Ethernet connections within the main site and by using a simple Internet connection to talk to the remote sites. By using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), the security concerns are easily allayed.

Alongside the ability to detect errors before they become an issue, by monitoring multiple spectrum segments simultaneously, you can also compare their profiles and therefore ensure that the parameters set by the user are adhered to across all transmissions. Effective monitoring allows relatively complex switching rules to be implemented in the case where equipment failures call for switching online redundant transmission chains or disabling transmissions altogether.

A sophisticated monitoring system working continuously can respond to issues automatically, even if there is no connection between the central facility and the remote station. This means that errors can be identified and resolved as soon as they have appeared. For satellite broadcasters, this means you can be sure to keep your content flowing to your viewers.


Tags: iss124 | uplink | satellite broadcast | crystal | Roger Franklin
Contributing Author Roger Franklin

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