Vendors hit NAB with wealth of sports xmission options

Transmission methods for both contribution and distribution needs continue to advance every April at NAB with vendors offering a myriad of solutions for transmission over satellite, fiber, and even open Internet.

Topping the list of innovations at the show was QuickSpot from satellite and fiber transmission services provider PanAmSat. The new SNG system can help sports broadcasters at all levels, including smaller colleges and even high-schools, transmit sporting events more cost effectively.

The goal is to make satellites easy to use, says Mike Antonovich, PanAmSat EVP, global sales and marketing. Calling to find satellite space, coordinating access and transmission are all labor intensive. And all our customers want is a way of using satellites that is more instant.

The system includes a satellite antenna, encoder gear, and other related equipment that can be operated from OB trucks, ENG vans and even turn a regular SUV into a mobile transmission system. QuickSpot also has an antenna that automatically locks in on an available satellite and automatically operates the receive antenna to pull in the transmitted signal. Customers also no longer need to book in 15-minute segments. Now they can ignite the feed and only pay for the time they use because the system keeps track of usage automatically, says Antonovich.

There are four versions of the system, with antennas ranging from .96 meters to 2.4 meters. Both MPEG2 and MPEG4 h.264 encoders are available as well, giving users maximum flexibility.
Kurt Riegelman, PanAmSat, SVP North American Sales, says the system not only reduces the human intervention needed at PanAmSat but also by its customers. You don t need an engineer because the camera operator can push the button and get the system operating, he says. That s important, he adds, for smaller sports productions that may not have a spare body available to maintain satellite connectivity.

The move is just the latest by a company that Antonovich says is primed to serve the sports market. With satellites plus 22,000 miles of video fiber and 16 points-of-presence around the globe we can meet any needs for both HD and SD broadcasters, he says.

Broadwing takes flight
While PanAmSat looks to use QuickSpot to speed up satellite booking Broadwing hit NAB looking to use DTM or dynamic synchronous transfer mode to speed up data transmission.

The idea behind DTM is to provide high-speed networking with top-quality transmissions and the ability to adapt the bandwidth to traffic variations quickly. More importantly, DTM is designed to be used in integrated service networks for both distribution and one-to-one communication.

The four keys of our network are focusing on contribution quality, reservation-based occasionally-use networks, quality monitoring, and interfacing for digital transmission schemes, says Del Bothof, vice president and general manager of Broadwing’s media services group.

With the use of DTM technology, says Bothof, all of those goals are more easily within reach. We can vary the capacity in 512 kbps increments without requiring fixed data rates, he says. Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association are both using the system that will roll out to 44 cities by the end of the summer. After NBA games all of the statistics and information is timecoded, stamped and downloaded to the NBA facility in Secaucus, NJ, says Bothof.

The advantage of DTM, says Bothof, is it can send content over one stream across the country and drop it at any point that touches the network. You can also roll it out city by city, says Bothof. A college campus, for example, could install a DTM box and tie into the Broadwing fiber network to deliver content anywhere. They can also access any kind of network they want, he adds.

A Different Path
Path 1 came to NAB with its new Vx8000 3.0 IP video gateway, a system designed to optimize low-cost public Internet links for real-time deliver of SD, HD and IP video. You can t just treat video as another data packet, says Rick Segil, Path 1 VP of marketing. If you do you just won t get the results because IP routers will get overloaded.

The Vx8000 compensates for jitter and packet loss with the use of redundancy and forward error correction. The system can survive a packet loss of 16,000 packets versus 250 for other systems, says Segal.

On a local level high schools or college events with a smaller fan base, like lacrosse, can take a local news truck to an event and broadcast it live to the Internet. The trucks are often there with reporters covering the events for local news so why not use it to get mass market appeal and a new channel to the market?, says Segal. Texas A&M, for example, put gateways in to run a 20Mbps HD stream flawlessly.

Riding over the public Internet may not be of utmost importance for U.S.-based networks that rely on services like Vyvx and Broadwing but for those looking for foreign distribution (or for foreign sports networks looking for U.S. distribution) dedicated long-haul bandwidth is often unaffordable. The Vx8000 gateway will be popular as the appetite for more diverse sports programming gets added as IPTV and cable network upgrades occur, says Segal.

GlobeCast gets its kicks
Like PanAmSat GlobeCast is looking to provide sports broadcasters with more than just a single distribution path. ITV, SkyItalia and Embratel (working on behalf of Brazilian broadcaster TV Globo) are among the rights holders that will work with GlobeCast on the World Cup, the massive event that will dominate the attention of the sporting world this June and July.

The World Cup is an extremely important global event that is on an order of magnitude to the Olympics, says David Szelag, VP of technical operations for GlobeCast. And it promises to keep Szelag and his team busy.

Facilities being offered to these leading broadcasters include on site production, uplink, space segment and transmission via GlobeCast’s content delivery network for both SD and HDTV.

In addition to servicing rightsholders at the World Cup, GlobeCast is also working with non-rightsholders, with full facilities being built through a joint deployment with the Associated Press and Sporting Promotions. Services offered will include live positions at the Brandenburg gate and the Reichstag, as well as onsite studio production and MCR facilities.

GlobeCast has been providing WorldCup coverage since 1998 so it s used to the intensity and hype. But this year s will have the largest amount of demand for bandwidth thanks to HD and the sheer amount of customers.

We always are cognizant of bandwidth and we try to keep the larger bandwidth traffic on the ground and move it through fiber, explains Szelag. Moving HD over satellite requires a pretty significant amount of bandwidth.

Looking to MPEG4
To help improve capacity GlobeCast is looking at MPEG-4 AVC as a replacement for MPEG-2. But chipmakers, says Szelag, are woefully behind the curve and the set-top boxes are still not available in large quantities for wide-spread deployment by satellite and cable operators. For contribution sports programmers are looking at high encoding bit rates while other programming can be tailored for distribution at 19.4 Mbps, he says. That demand makes MPEG-4 even more important.

Another solution that GlobeCast is investigating is dynamic transfer mode over fiber. DTM can help fiber move beyond point-to-point to a multi-point model. It s extremely interesting and worth delving into, says Szelag. Major League Baseball, for example, could take a game back to MLB headquarters and also propagate it out to affiliates.

GlobeCast is also deploying IPTV technology with the recent completion of an IPTV technical operations center in Miami. Right now we re up to our thighs in the mud of IPTV, jokes Szelag. That s not to say that the mud is a bad thing. With telco operators and cable operators looking to IPTV as a means of distributing video the IPTV ops center gives operators a central location to find IPTV-ready programming sources. It s currently an MPEG-2 super headend and we re studying which direction to go so we can get to MPEG-4 AVC as well. It s a matter of finding out what our customers want and what combination of encoder and decoder they need.

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