August 5, 2020

Boosting SNG via All-IP Networks: Your Questions Answered

Boosting SNG via All-IP Networks

We’d like to thank everyone that registered, attended and viewed on-demand our latest webinar, Boosting SNG via All-IP Networks which is available to watch here! It was a packed hour with insight from our moderator and panelists, Jonathan Higgins, Managing Director, Beaconseek, Steve Bretherick, CEO, Telemedia, South Africa, Alex Pimentel, CEO, Casablanca Online, Brazil, Chris Dredge, Managing Director, Pacific Live Media and our very own Head of Media and Broadcast, Hans Massart. We’d like to thank our panelists for delivering their unique perspectives on the SNG market and how it is evolving in different regions of the world.

Due to our limited time, we were not able to get responses to some of the questions that the audience sent into us. So, this week and next, we’ll be publishing responses to some of the questions we didn’t get time to answer. Thanks for sending so many in!

For crews situated in remote locations with no access to internet, what kind of solution for IP transmission can be used to replace SNG?

Hans Massart: Today’s news crews require far more than just contribution of a traditional video feed and IFB. They ideally can operate at the remote site as if they were in the studio, making use of any kind of archive access, internet, intranet, Outlook, Wetransfer, etc. whilst at the same time they may want to update social media such as Twitter, Facebook etc. These are all applications that require a bi-directional IP network.

The kind of IP connectivity used by the crew should be of no concern to them. This should all be handled in the background automatically, so that they can focus on the coverage of the story and not on technology.

When terrestrial connectivity is reliably providing all required on-demand bandwidth, there is no need for satellite. However, in many cases there is not enough terrestrial connectivity or it is completely non-existent. This could be down to the fact that the location is in an unpopulated area or because all terrestrial infrastructure has been destroyed. There can also be challenges with contention of cellular bandwidth if many news crews are trying to aggregate enough bandwidth from the same source. Additionally, private users also consume bandwidth, e.g. to upload video on social media. In these cases, IP over satellite adds another IP medium to the overall bandwidth pool. Satellite can provide high availability and high bandwidth over a vast geographical area.

The unique solution provided by ST Engineering iDirect on the Newtec Dialog platform features on demand bandwidth both in the forward and return channel, automatically adapting the channel to support changing weather conditions at a remote location.

Like any IP medium the satellite IP link can host a variety of general broadband applications including video. Of course, in addition to the IP link, it is possible to set up specific traditional DVB SCPC links as well.

Conclusion: In some cases, IP SNG may replace traditional SNG. But in other cases, the bi-directional IP link is an add-on to the traditional SNG, as addressed by Mr. Alex Pimentel in the session.

For which events is using IP satellite for video applicable? Is this limited to unplanned events such as disasters or could it be for tier 2 sports?

Steve Bretherick: I don’t think IP satellite is limited to unplanned events but it does suit unplanned events very nicely.  Any event where terrestrial connectivity is unreliable, is suited to IP satellite. IP satellite also allows for exactly the same network to be used across multiple events and allows for constant connectivity no matter where or how quickly the events occur.  For this reason, IP satellite should appeal to regular tier 1 and tier 2 sports or events.

Due to the topology of a VSAT network that facilitates video IP satellite technology, the Hub is the only downlink.  The only events that are not suitable for IP over satellite are when multiple downlinks direct from the SNG are required.

In light of smaller budgets and staff in 2020 would COVID not ‘fast track’ the adoption of “All-IP” ecosystem because it is far more cost effective and more automated than traditional SNG?  The downside is major change of workflows.

Steve Bretherick: The automation has a very big upside. It allows an SNG to be deployed with less technical staff or no technical staff at all.  With a full IP satellite SNG, once the SNG has aligned its antenna and the modem is locked, the entire system can be remotely controlled from the HQ. This means that one engineer could manage multiple SNG productions at the same time.

The cost saving from a personnel point of view can easily be realized. Satellite capacity is the real turning point. You need to reach the breakeven point for permanent satellite leases over occasional use.  VSAT systems don’t lend themselves easily to occasional use capacity. At the very least the forward carrier needs to be on a permanent lease. As long as you are not pushing video on the forward carrier, then the forward carrier is very small, but still required.

In India, the 4G network is not up to the mark in about 70% areas. How can this IP solution via satellite can change the scenario here?

Hans Massart: News crews already making use of the 4G network will most likely use cellular bonded equipment already. Cellular bonding equipment transmits live streams via multiplexed cellular signals when ethernet or Wi-Fi isn’t available. The same encoding and bonding equipment can be used to feed an IP satellite link.

The remote kit must be completed with a VSAT modem, such as ST Engineering iDirect’s MDM2510 or MDM3310, along with a satellite antenna. Several fly-away and drive-away antennas have an integrated modem.

At the central site, a VSAT hub connects all modems with terrestrial infrastructure. Often the signals are relayed over private IP networks or the internet towards their final destination.

The hub can either be owned by the broadcaster, news agency etc. for in-house use. If the cost of the VSAT does not fit into a business case, several companies offer a managed service based on Newtec Dialog. Examples of service providers with a media and broadcast focus are Dejero/Intelsat (CellSat), Network Innovations (Maverick) or SES (OU Flex), but most satellite service providers can provide this kind of service.

What is IFB?

Hans Massart: Interruptible foldback (IFB), also known as interrupted foldback, interruptible feedback, or interrupt for broadcast is a monitoring and cueing system used in television, filmmaking, video production, and radio broadcast for one-way communication from the director or assistant director to on-air talent or a remote location. IFB is often facilitated using an earpiece that on-air persons wear to get cues, feedback or direction from their control rooms. The earpiece itself may also be referred to as an IFB.

In newsgathering, the IFB can be sent through a telephone hybrid, or some other return link in a broadcast auxiliary service. In the discussed case, the return link is the VSAT return.

We’ll bring you more responses to your questions in next week’s blog.

Do you want to find out how the audience responded to the featured poll question during the webinar: Do you think IP will replace “conventional” SNG, and if so, how quickly? View the webinar in its entirety at the ST Engineering iDirect Content Hub:

The new Boosting SNG via All-IP Networks whitepaper can also be viewed here.