Riding the wave of change: Unlocking new value by moving from satellite to IP

July 22, 2020 by Michal Miskin-Amir, General Manager of LTN Transport

The broadcast business is changing. Broadcast organizations are compelled to consider the options beyond traditional satellite video distribution — to seek out more customizable, interoperable, and future-proof solutions.

In parallel, C-band satellite systems that have been used by the broadcast and cable industry for decades are now confronted with a 60% reduction in available spectrum (occupying 300MHz of the 3.7GHz - 4.2GHz mid-band spectrum) as a result of the accelerated spectrum clearing agreement reached between satellite operators and the FCC.

Selecting a satellite-beating IP transport solution

Circumventing satellite's bandwidth limitations, IP broadcast enables video content delivery to any destination or location. Programmers can establish a direct connection via an IP network, through handoffs with public cloud networks, or connections to private data centers.

But determining the best IP transmission solution can be a daunting process. Not only does the solution need to enable operational consistency in content distribution, but it should also represent an investment that fosters audience growth and new revenue streams.

Though satellite has traditionally been used for its reliability and reach, IP is able to match those characteristics, while delivering potentially higher quality with greater regionalization of content. The ubiquity of the internet enables cost-effective transmission to any geographic location and destination, be it linear, OTT, or cloud platforms. Transporting video over an intelligent IP transport network allows operators to consistently distribute content with extremely high reliability and consistent low latency to a diverse geographic audience.

Overcoming the live transmission challenges of the open internet

While the internet offers many benefits, such as ubiquity, availability, and accessibility, there are inherent limitations to the architecture of the public internet, which impact its application in broadcast media transmission — most notably with streaming live video.

The internet provides a successful set of network protocols that enable global reach and standardization. However, media delivery has stringent quality and availability requirements that are not supported by the basic internet architecture.

The internet is not a managed network. It provides a best-effort end-to-end service, with no reliability or quality guarantees. Packets can be lost or delayed as they pass between the source and destinations, due to congestion, routing anomalies, or physical errors. This packet loss will affect video rendered for the end-viewer. ISP failures, as well as problems at the peering point between different ISPs, present further challenges.

Open-internet transport subverts quality

  • Packet loss
  • ISP failure
  • Delays

Various transport methods have been developed to improve the internet’s end-to-end service, but such solutions are limited and often introduce significant delays. Broadcasters who care about quality, latency, reliability, and transport efficiency are facing the limitations of any transport protocols that utilize the public internet.

Understanding the need for a managed multicast network

The answer is a reliable multicast IP solution, such as LTN’s with protocols for Dynamic Multicarrier Routing and Rapid Error Recovery, which are specifically architected to fit the live video needs of the broadcast industry. Such protocols are able to deliver live, broadcast-quality video anywhere in the world with ultra-high reliability and ultra-low latency. For users coming from satellite, this means that IP transport can be an incredibly practical solution that pays dividends.

Antenna network

Long-term benefits of IP transport

  • Operational efficiency
  • Scalability
  • Maintainability

The internet is not a managed network, so an IP solution capable of replacing satellite needs to provide management and control. Ensuring that there is visibility into the network is integral to providing a reliable service. Visibility feeds into better quality and reliability, enabling the service to be monitored and maintained.

Connecting full-spectrum visibility with quality and reliability

Unmanaged networks, like those directly using the public internet, can't match the full-spectrum visibility of a managed network, with insights into packet-level transport data and proactive monitoring for potential points of failure. That level of functionality requires a degree of intelligence engineered into the network. Intelligent, full-spectrum visibility enables the solution to manage itself in order to provide the best possible service.

In addition, to support the delivery of mission-critical content, the solution must also provide customers with the full set of tools and interfaces necessary for them to operate their workflows and monitor the service. Quality service goes beyond using the right underlying network transport mechanisms — it also depends on choosing a network you can trust to address your broadcast needs.

Improving workflows and revenues on IP

The transition to IP offers much more than simply replacing the way content is transported. It can open the door to new monetization opportunities through greater regionalization of content, as well as enhanced advertising and targeting capabilities. IP enables broadcasters to scale across multiple platforms and destinations and reach new digital audiences in ways that are impossible with satellite systems. Additionally, IP-enabled systems unlock workflow enhancements such as channel management, regionalization, and dynamic ad insertion, which further drive content value.

Tighter integrations with automation, playout, and traffic systems can streamline the customization of each channel delivery, per video platform. As not all programming is cleared in all regions or across all delivery options (cable, satellite, internet, mobile, etc.), content replacement is often required. Reliable, frame-accurate signaling integrated into IP delivery networks allows broadcasters to scale distribution while meeting content replacement requirements.

It's possible to streamline ad delivery by integrating a dynamic metadata signaling service into the IP video stream. Detailed ad-break signaling and ad-serving systems enable increased opportunities that will ultimately drive revenue growth. Such systems allow targeted ad inventory either on a per-platform basis or ideally on a per-viewer basis, where the platforms allow.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution

One of the most important elements of implementing any transition is who implements it. Every broadcast organization will have its own unique set of existing workflows they have put in place over time with specific broadcasting equipment. The transition should be tailored to the specific needs of the broadcaster.

Ideally, making such a transition does not involve having to completely dump one system for another. Rather, the transition should be seamless and integrate with existing workflows to provide a realistic, achievable path to IP that retains the best elements of existing resources in ways that are more operationally cost-effective.

The shift from satellite to IP distribution has a number of future-facing benefits and it won’t be a question of if, but when we see adoption of the latter overtake usage of the former.