In Broadcast - July 2012 - 59
ISSUE 10 - JULY 2012 | WWW.INBROADCAST.COM
Satellite Uplinks: Far From Static Cont.
provides for French League soccer contributions and which SIS Live delivered for ESPN and ITV’s coverage of the 2012 FA Cup Final. by a terrestrial ﬁbre optic ring. There’s a further beneﬁt too. Since the NewsSpotter terminal is bidirectional, it can transmit and receive at the same time, using separate frequencies for the uplink and t h e d o w n l i n k , Fibre Interfaces s o m e t h i n g not possible in most current SNG systems. “File-based technologies have revolutionised newsgathering from camcorder recording, to ofﬂine editing over laptops in the ﬁeld,” says Benzi. “IP contribution by KASAT provides the missing piece in the workﬂow.”
As venues are refurbished or built on green ﬁeld, ﬁbre plays a signiﬁcant role in stadium connectivity, reports Paul Scardino, VP, Corporate Sales and Marketing, Globecomm Systems. “As a result, we’ve seen some drop in space segment rates,” he says. “Weather is also a factor, particularly with lower budget productions that may be up-linking KU band only, in which case ﬁbre is a reliable standby option. Traditionally, ﬁbre transport has been the back-up and satellite the primary. For high proﬁle events, it is common to see a C Band HD uplink with a back-up SD KU uplink, along with an alternate HD ﬁbre connection. With transport advancement, H.264 MPEG 4 and the like, it gives ﬁbre a better transport path due to bandwidth reduction. This easily puts ﬁbre alongside with satellite transport.” News bulletins by satellite have traditionally used frequencies in the Ku-band, but a new frequency range, the Ka-band, is coming on stream promising twice the frequency of Ku and the ability to deploy smaller, cheaper, SNG trucks. “The benefit of Ka is that it enables you to build a certain sort of architecture which drives down cost per bit,” explains Eutelsat’s Head of Video, Cristiano Benzi. “Ka ‘per se’ is not the magic ingredient, it’s how you use it that is important.” Eutelsat’s KA-SAT is the first European satellite with multibeam coverage in Ka-band. Throughput to Eutelsat’s NewSpotter system is boosted via the satellite’s 82 beams while the size of each beam enables a much higher concentration of power on the ground (up to 20 Mbit). The system is augmented by a series of earth stations, interconnected
The growing connectivity of terrestrial cellular networks (3G, 4G LTE, 4G WiMAX, and Wi-Fi) is however being tapped to provide an increasingly resilient alternative to satellite or ﬁbre. “Mobile devices are small, cheap to use on a pay-as-you go basis and can provide immediate pictures,” says Meynall. SIS Live is trailing mobile options for a pair of broadcasters. “The downsides are that, unlike satellite, 3G or 4G is always a contended network where you can never a guarantee availability or service,” he says. “If you pitch up at a train crash, for example, there may be 20 other crews trying to use the same network.”
…broadcasters are adopting a ‘belt and braces’ approach in which ﬁbre is backed-up with satellite trucks
Eutelsat is not alone in targeting newsgathering. Inmarsat is building a U$1.2bn network for global coverage in the Ka band including three new satellites. Planned to launch in 2013, Global Xpress will offer downlinks up to 50Mbps and 5Mbps uplink. Each of the new satellites will carry 89 beams, which can be focused anywhere in the world. SIS Live has installed its ﬁrst Ka-oriented antenna at its MediaCity teleport and Globecast is testing its ﬁrst Ka-band equipped vehicle. “I would say the testing is positive but we are waiting on some new hardware to be released and approved,” informs Alquati. “Kaband offers attractive cost saving benefits versus Ku capacity although the KA-SAT system utilises satellite and terrestrial resources which incurs a component of cost. However it can offer a real solution for news coverage particularly in areas of natural disaster since it can provide interconnectivity to private networks.” Alquati is sceptical about using it for sports contribution until issues related to the ability of Kaband satellites to operate through atmospheric conditions (notably rain) are resolved. At the other end of the scale from SNG trucks are one-person operated mobile kits, ideal to get breaking news to air and a ﬁeld still dominated by the Inmarsat portable satellite BGAN.
“It’s rare that a news programme would be hosted with a live feed from on-location but that scenario is frequently the case for sports and entertainment shows. When there’s an outage it gets very serious,” says Meynall. “As a result, broadcasters are adopting a ‘belt and braces’ approach in which ﬁbre is backedup with satellite trucks.” Alquati agrees: “We ﬁrst used fibre from stadia in 2003 since in metro areas, where there is deep ﬁbre connectivity, there are concrete advantages. But with the larger bandwidth requirements of HD transmission I am not 100% convinced that a ﬁbre-only solution is the best one. “You don’t want a single point of failure, since if anything is cut then the TX is dead,” he elaborates. “A good compromise is a solid fibre connection and satellite transmission from the same venue.” This is something which Globecast
Other negatives include latency of a second or more on transmission which will only be tolerated in exceptional circumstances on-air; bandwidth limitations which drain signal coverage (again, unlike satellite) and changing patterns of 3G networks between regions. Among the pioneers are California’s Teredek and Israeli ﬁrm LiveU. The latter counts CNN, ABC, CBS, Fox News and the BBC among customers of its uplink kit which can be worn in a backpack weighing 5kg. LiveU’s technology bonds several modems together to aggregate bandwidth over multiple carriers. Using an inbuilt RF antenna this provides enough available bandwidth to transmit 1080i HD signals, captured by camcorder. “We can transmit effectively from many dead spots and areas where a specific carrier may not have adequate coverage including in
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TVU pack on the go