These days, the goal is to broadcast live from anywhere, whether it’s a high school football game or the scene of a natural disaster. As broadcasters well know, mobile production and electronic and satellite newsgathering can be plagued with technical challenges. Our customers often come to us struggling with weak signals, interference, signal loss, latency, poor picture quality, lack of redundancy and more. Fortunately, there are feasible, real-world solutions that will keep their live coverage on track no matter what the conditions.
One of those solutions is bonded cellular technology, which is the focus of this guide. The technology bonds any available combination of network interfaces—including local cellular and Wi-Fi networks, Ethernet and satellite—for high-quality and reliable video transmission links. With its ease of use, flexibility to support a wide range of networks, and ability to deliver live coverage from places trucks can’t go, bonded cellular technology helps broadcasters alleviate frustration and save money.
Bonded cellular video transport solutions use some combination of dedicated hardware and various network optimization techniques to ensure the system will adapt to changing network conditions. That’s because simply getting a connection is not enough; the picture also has to look good. If there is a problem with the cellular network or the internet connection, for example, bonded cellular solutions will self-adjust to minimize the likelihood of signal loss or other issues. In areas where there is no cellular signal, some solutions can hook to other IP connections, such as LAN, Wi-Fi, satellite and BGAN. Some solutions are so versatile that they’ve been able to broadcast live over distances of 11,000 miles with latency as low as 1.2 seconds.
In most applications, the talent can go out alone with nothing but a camera, a tripod and a lightweight cellular transmitter that can be mounted on the back of the camera or placed in a backpack. Just hook the backpack onto the side of the tripod, set up the shot and turn on the backpack to transmit live, broadcast-quality video from virtually anywhere in the world. When the transmitter is mounted on the camera, setup is even quicker. All cables can be prewired for video, IFB and audio. If the operator should get into trouble, a simple button press lets master control take over and operate the link remotely.
Being able to send one person to cover a story instead of a two- or three-person crew certainly saves money. So does getting rid of the truck, and the portability and versatility of bonded cellular can eliminate the need for a satellite, ENG or mobile production truck in many situations. Consider this conservative estimate: If it costs $2,500 per day to rent a satellite truck, and you rent it for 25 percent of the year, then you could save as much as $228,000 per year by replacing that truck with a bonded cellular solution.
Clearly bonded cellular technology makes good financial sense in many live broadcast workflows. Whether it’s news, reality TV, sports or entertainment, bonded cellular is the solution for getting live shots to any master control in the world. At the same time, the right bonded cellular solution mitigates the problems and limitations of traditional satellite, ENG and mobile production. When choosing a bonded cellular system, be sure to evaluate for ease of use, reliability and ability to transmit in challenging environments.
Jim Jachetta is executive vice president and chief technology officer at VidOvation, a leading manufacturer of video, audio and data communications systems for the broadcast television and sports, corporate AV and government markets. Encompassing wireless video, bonded cellular, video streaming, video networking, IPTV and fiber optic communications systems, VidOvation solutions improve video transmissions by removing the frustrations of dropouts, latency, interference, noise and security issues.