When something newsworthy happens, today’s audiences expect to see and hear about it immediately, where it is happening, as it is happening. The newsroom must be able to take it fresh from the scene to the viewer with little lag time.
It is, however, not only about delivering live video. Today’s news crews require access to a lot of applications, such as Voice-over- IP (VoIP), video clip transfer, web and archive browsing, email and social media. Alternatively, they can also make use of applications such as Avid iNews or Octopus Newsroom.
All these applications require a reliable bi-directional IP “multiservice” communication link of a sizeable bandwidth to allow news crews to operate as if they were in the studio.
But what if the news unfolds at a remote location? As the event is not planned, what kind of IP connectivity will be available and reliable during the entire duration of the coverage? Will it be costeffective? Speed is also of the essence as it is key to be the first to start covering the event as it happens.
In the race to be first to air, flexibility, agility, efficiency, reliability, compactness or portability, and ease of use are critical.
Modern Mobile Newsgathering Connectivity and Kits: All-IP
To aggregate enough IP bandwidth to concurrently handle all services, including video, that a remote location requires, the specialist “cellular bonding” industry has expanded from bonding just cellular connections to bonding all available IP networks at a given point in time – whether it is cellular, microwave, Wi-Fi, fiber or satellite – to create greater bandwidth and resilience.
By intelligently bonding the low-latency terrestrial (cellular) connections with a high availability and high bandwidth satellite connection, an optimal Quality of Experience (QoE) is provided. An intelligent connection management system handles bandwidth fluctuations over each media, considering the different Quality of Service (QoS) these services require per terminal. In addition, the management system can flexibly address re-distribution of available satellite bandwidth over the concurrently communicating remote terminals.
News crews have a broader range of tools to choose from: camera-mounted, body-worn transportable transmitters or rugged transmitters or notebooks that are compatible with portable lowcost satellite dishes with integrated rugged modems. Wi-Fi or microwave connections allow the cameras to be connected to a portable satellite uplink, even if it is a couple of kilometers away.
Rather than discussing how content is captured and transported from remote locations, the focus is on how the acquisition assets and incoming content are managed and shared. Open standards and interoperability are key.
Where Satellite Fits in
When would a newsgathering crew rely on an IP satellite connection?
- When terrestrial links are unavailable, for example, in war zones or after a natural disaster.
- When terrestrial links don’t provide enough bandwidth or when bandwidth becomes contended over time as a result of many news crews covering the same event.
- Cellular connections may suffer from too much jitter affecting the quality of broadcast video.
- When terrestrial links are not cost-effective, for example, for unplanned events out of the standard footprint of coverage, where the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for terrestrial connectivity may end up being more expensive than a satellite link obtained from a (worldwide active) managed service satellite provider which provides Mbps pay-per-use or capacitybased plans rather than slotted MHz plans.
To be compatible with a general newsgathering kit, the satellite equipment must be compact, rugged, lightweight and all-IP. It should be easy to point the satellite antenna, so the IP satellite network can be acquired without specific satellite technology related skills. Depending on the use case, Ka-band, Ku-band or both need to be supported.
In addition, the satellite platform needs to be integrated into the intelligent management system which, in a flexible and ad-hoc fashion:
- handles services (packets) sent over different IP media (each with their own delay);
- can assign extra or less satellite bandwidth to specific remote terminals based on priority of services.
What Are the Challenges for Satellite Transmission?
- Current satellite modulation technologies are not adequate
- Quality of Service configuration for multiservice operation
- Integration into an intelligent (umbrella) management system or scheduling system
How Can these Challenges be Addressed?
Next-generation VSAT solutions provide the best fit to cover all newsgathering application requirements: an IP-pipe in the sky, allowing on-demand variable bandwidth allocation, while guaranteeing efficient bandwidth usage at higher bit rates and with a multi-level QoS configuration in both forward and return paths, in a similar way to terrestrial networks.
As shown in this figure for next-generation VSAT access technologies, such as Newtec Mx-DMA®, a carrier is assigned to each terminal participating in the transmission at a given point in time. This operation is very SCPC-like, as is the efficiency. This carrier can be very narrow when traffic is very low.
However, the carrier can be resized seamlessly based on the terminal’s incoming traffic, QoS of all services, concurrency of all transmitting terminals and services at a given point in time on the same satellite transponder, and weather conditions. Peak rates of up to 80 Mbps are envisioned to cover UHD or multicamera scenarios.
Each second, the VSAT hub distributes what its new center frequency, modulation, coding, power and symbol rate will be to all terminals, without dropping packets. From the physical layer point of view, the next-generation access technology has a short code block size, supporting low latency in the event of low rate contribution. The code block size is fundamentally smaller than the DVB-S2 short frames.
Next-generation access technologies can protect fixed bit rate services, achieving similar flexibility to MF-TDMA, but improving the efficiency with much higher aggregated bit rates.
A next-generation VSAT platform also features a multi-level deterministic QoS model, giving similar flexibility as for terrestrial networks. It can provide scheduling software and integration into an intelligent (umbrella) management system.