TranSPORT: Cell-Based ENG Systems Complement Trucks at Venues

Over the past half decade, companies like LiveU and TVU have taken steps to redefine the ENG-mobile-unit marketplace by rolling up a satellite truck into a lightweight video-over-cellular backpack.

The business has blossomed. However, anyone who has ever used a cellphone can attest: signals can be spotty. At SVG’s TranSPORT Summit in New York City on Tuesday, representatives from both companies discussed whether their gear was up to the challenge of broadcasting from live sports events.

“This technology is not perfect, but satellite’s not perfect; microwave is not perfect,” said Dave Robertson, VP of content and media sales at TVU Networks. “But the things that you can do with this technology in terms of giving your consumer a different experience are just incredible. Simply put, when you’re not tethered to a truck, there’s so many amazing and creative things that you can do.”

Cellular-based ENG systems are a cost-efficient way of getting more reporters into the field, but they don’t go as far as replacing the mobile-production truck for news teams.

“We believe we are complementing what the [television stations] already have,” said Robertson. “We’re not trying to replace trucks; we are trying to complement what they are already doing.”

It sounds great on paper: a cell-based satellite truck that can be carried on your back and can transmit live video signals home to a network. But key issues arise in latency, amount of bandwidth, and what happens when you get the device into a crowded stadium, where folks from broadcasters to spectators are competing for cell signals.

LiveU and TVU remedy these challenges by bonding carriers. Bonding signals from a variety of carriers builds a higher bandwidth to allow crews to push out higher-quality, HD pictures and also permits fluctuations in signals as each service backs the others up. The devices can run on 3G, 4G, WiFi, Ethernet, etc. simultaneously, typically performing at their highest level when operating on seven data cards.

“WiFi and Ethernet are great as an add-on, but people get our backpacks and our handheld devices not because they want WiFi but because they want to be able to go to any venue anywhere in the country or in the world, power up, and go live without having to worry about connection,” said Ken Zamkow, head of sales and marketing at LiveU.

Although both companies will accommodate various needs, LiveU recommends a lease model, with all features (hardware, software, data plans, and warranty) included on one bill. TVU leans more toward purchase and will establish the data plans if the buyer desires.

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