Internet over satellite for broadcast links

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SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

TV and radio broadcasters and production companies are continually pushing technical boundaries to allow for their creative needs. However, often outside broadcast productions find themselves well outside any fixed internet or mobile network coverage areas. In these cases, a satellite link is the only option for their contribution needs.

SNG is the most reliable mechanism for quick and temporary content delivery from anywhere to anywhere. Especially on big events, outside broadcast productions are, increasingly, demanding more facilities at their disposal. A typical OB requires bi-directional communications and a contribution circuit back to the broadcaster.

With the rise of social media, however, outside broadcast productions are now requiring internet and VoIP services at the remote location to supplement the production. This connectivity is normally provided using fixed-line operators or cellular (mobile phone) networks for audio comms and data services. In some locations these services are not easy to deliver or are not reliable, and often have a hefty price tag for a temporary service as once-off installation costs need to be paid for what would probably not take place at that location ever again or with any regularity. Having access to a reliable internet connection for emails, internet browsing and file transfers used to be a ‘nice to have’, but is now essential for OB operations. It is with this thought that Telemedia is now adding VSAT capability to our standard SNG fleet.

Not only can satellite be used to supplement data services at a remote production, it can also be used to provide the main contribution, without the use of a full SNG truck, by providing internet to the remote location. Simple data services could be utilised by radio and internet streaming contributions at affordable rates on an occasional-use basis. It can also be used to provide internet for the new and increasingly popular use of cellphone-bonded codec systems, such as LiveU.

These units make use of a combination of mobile networks, Wi-Fi networks and fixed-line Ethernet, which can now be provided by the VSAT connection. When the mobile or Wi-Fi network is no longer able to provide sufficient data throughput, the satellite internet connection takes over. The blending (or bonding) together of different connectivity methods is seamless and dynamic, as the system senses which is the best route for the data to travel over.

Most VSAT networks use a hub-spoke topology, whereby the remote terminal is received by a single “hub” system, which in turn transmits to all of the remote terminals (the “spokes”) individually. The bulk of the infrastructure cost is at the central hub site, where most of the radio frequency (RF) and network processing takes place.  The cost of a remote terminal comes in at a fraction of the cost of an SNG, making it more affordable for internet streaming and radio services.

For many productions, the use of satellite and SNG trucks is expensive. The advantage of VSAT is that it can be easily relocated and the same service can be provided at the new location, thereby providing the same service at any location. Depending on the demands of the production’s data requirements, the same service can even be shared amongst multiple venues.

At the end of the day, this ability to re-use the same service on an occasional-use basis will make satellite affordable and more reliable for the broadcaster. In the past, a very high premium was paid for a guaranteed connection, with service-level agreement (SLA) and/or quality of service (QoS) issues to be brokered. For mission-critical broadcasts to OTT platforms, the production company cannot afford a ‘best effort’ connection. Critical productions would not accept any downtime or sub-standard performance due to third-party providers that are unable to provide fault reports or real-time analysis of the OB links.

Uptime and guaranteed QoS is therefore crucial for broadcast links. It was for these reasons that Telemedia took the decision at the beginning of 2019 to invest in our own VSAT Hub to offer VSAT services to the broadcast industry. Based at our Rivonia Teleport, we have the fibre infrastructure to offer internet or dedicated network connections to customers. Telemedia chose the Newtec Dialog Platform, based on their product offerings and pricing options and international track record. As a telecommunications and broadcast industry service provider, Telemedia has the flexibility to tailor any customer requirements into an affordable solution that is guaranteed to work.

Satellites will be around for the foreseeable future, until fixed-line telco operators can offer guaranteed connectivity solutions. While this is taking place, a client’s occasional-use needs are served by satellite links, particularly covering every region of rural Africa. Telemedia’s market research has indicated that the broadcast industry is looking for a satellite-based internet connection that is reliable, easy-to-use and affordable, and operated by an experienced broadcast industry service provider that understands their needs. Telemedia’s new product offering will enable existing customers to explore new production opportunities and offer new customers, especially radio and streaming providers, an opportunity to go live anywhere, any time.

Written by Andy Louis, CTO, Telemedia (Pty) Ltd.

 

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