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Connectivity and Communication: Assessing the Advantages of Bonded Cellular Technology

“Bonded cell technology allows us to cover much more news than ever before,” says Scotty Smith, an NBC affiliate production manager.

With its ability to connect crews with their stations via low-cost cellular, Ethernet or Wi-Fi networks, bonded cellular transmission technology has made live remotes more accessible and affordable.

“Bonded cell technology has allowed us to economically expand our Montana stations’ coverage to encompass the entire state, rather than being limited to a few larger urban areas,” says Neal Boling, station manager of Spokane, Wash.-based NBC affiliate KHQ-TV. “Thanks to our LiveU bonded cell transmitters, our Wake Up Montana morning show has live content from all of them every day.”

The biggest appeal of bonded cell technology is the low-cost reach it provides to crews. “With our Comrex units, which connect via 4G to Verizon, we can do live news shoots all over San Francisco,” says Arnie Loleng, operations manager for Ohlone TV, a closed circuit/streaming TV channel operated by Fremont, Calif.-based Ohlone College’s broadcasting facility.

KHQ-TV uses LiveU bonded cell transmitters for live remotes on its Wake Up Montana morning show.

KTUU-TV, the NBC affiliate in Anchorage, Alaska, uses a mix of Comrex, Dejero and LiveU bonded cellular technology. “Since cellular coverage is largely limited to urban areas, we use bonded cell connected via Ethernet or Wi-Fi to send back live shots from remote communities,” says Scotty Smith, KTUU’s production manager. “This allows us to do a far better job of covering Alaska live than we were able to do before.”

Burnsville Community TV in Burnsville, Minn., connects a Comrex bonded cell unit to its mobile production truck: “We shoot a lot of high school football games,” says Jay Golden, television production specialist for BCTV. “The Comrex allows us to send a switched live feed to our headend as a backup to our local cable TV system.”

Alaska’s KTUU-TV uses Dejero solutions like the LIVE+ GoBox mobile transmitter, which is shown here in use at Network Ten Australia.

Bonded cellular is also recognized for its ease of use. Compared to the complexities of connecting microwave and satellite trucks, “bonded cell is pretty much plug-and-play, even when you are doing long-distance live shots, as we did using LiveU from San Francisco to our station, WOIO [CBS], in Cleveland during the 2015 NBA Finals,” says Bob Maupin, regional director of technology for Raycom Media. “Our people were pretty much able to shoot and broadcast from anywhere within the arena.”

Another advantage is that the low cost of bonded cell transmission compared to satellite and microwave allows smaller stations to compete with deeper-pocketed rivals. A case in point: South Florida’s América TeVé relies on its AVIWEST bonded cell transmitters to help produce eight hours of live news daily. “When it comes to covering local news, AVIWEST lets us take on the big networks and be on the same page,” says Gerd Rieger, senior engineering manager for the Miami-based independent Spanish language TV station.

“It has just changed and enhanced the way we do live remotes,” says Raycom’s Maupin. “Bonded cell doesn’t fit every application, but it fits the majority of them at a lower price and with much simpler technical requirements than microwave or satellite.”

AVIWEST’s DMNG PRO video uplink solution is available in a backpack configuration.

“The biggest advantage of bonded cell is that you can get your people to many more locations than you could with the transmission alternatives, simply because you can afford to buy and deploy more units,” says Jim Ocon, vice president of engineering for the Dallas/Ft. Worth FOX affiliate. “The tradeoff, of course, is that you are sharing your bandwidth with other cellular users.”

“Bonded cell technology allows us to cover much more news than ever before,” notes Smith. “At the same time, it does so at a price that fits our budget.