Satellite Technology Vendors Embracing IP
Satellite video equipment manufacturers’ current and next-generation products are ready-play in an IP-networked world, and IP is becoming mainstream in real-time satellite video according to hardware players. So what strategies are equipment manufacturers taking in the IP satellite market?
A number of markets are opening up for these new solutions. For example, the use of IP-over-satellite solutions for newsgathering contribution is increasing. As part of the trend towards increased mobility, portability and automation in satellite news systems, more of them are being packaged by manufacturers with video-over-IP options. Using IP solutions provides improved flexibility now that IP can be transmitted efficiently over satellite using the mechanisms provided in the DVB-S2 standard. Benefits of using IP include the ability to incorporate virtually any device supporting IP communications into the solution, whether it is a real-time video encoder with IP output, communications devices or a PC.
“The IP market for broadcast solutions is growing rapidly, especially in satellite and terrestrial markets. There is still a large amount of satellite bandwidth that is available for such solutions,” said Dan Dalton, director of new product development at Fujitsu.
“Now that video over IP can be performed reliably and efficiently, it also has a growing attraction for certain satellite contribution applications,” said David Mitchinson, director of business development for Tandberg Television.
According to Gal Garniek, associate vice president for marketing at Scopus, “In the last few years, a lot of what we sell has either IP input or IP output or both.” Scopus manufactures encoders, multiplexors and receivers with IP interfaces, and Garniek estimates about 30 percent of orders include IP options and about a 10 percent growth yearly for IP interfaces on products.
One area equipment providers see growing is IP multiplexing in the DTH satellite headend and the potential for remote encoding and multiplexing of contribution signals over terrestrial IP networks feeding the DTH uplink. According to Are Olafsen, director of satellite head end solutions with Thomson, “By adopting IP technology in the broadcasting industry, DTH operators can gain increased flexibility to design their headend architecture and realign services at any point during the lifecycle of the system.” Traditionally, an extensive re-wiring was required to achieve this. The traditional multi-channel uplink has encoders wired together with ASI interfaces.
The DVB-ASI (DVB asynchronous serial interface) protocol tends to be the protocol of choice for satellite video connections, but IP offers some advantages over ASI such as greater capacity and network flexibility. IP/Gigabet Ethernet network capacity is about 950 megabits per second (Mbps), compared to about 270 Mbps for an ASI connection. IP/Ethernet networks can be simpler to install, manage and maintain. In addition to the increased flexibility, IP technology allows for a geographically distributed encoding architecture. For example, the encoders for a DTH system can be located at the source content providers’ facilities instead of at the DTH uplink site. The upshot is reduced bandwidth costs to deliver programming to DTH uplinks.
Tandberg Television announced recently that its MPEG-4 AVC compression and IP multiplexing solutions are being used in Europe by Telenor Satellite Broadcasting to provide IP video contribution and direct-to-consumer IPTV services in Scandinavia. Telenor’s system involves remote encoding and multiplexing from six locations across northern Europe and Scandinavia. Telenor encodes video at various source points, for delivery over an all-IP transport network.
Manufacturer’s reps and systems integrators say more IP-ready gear is being ordered with satellite video systems. Fred Pope, president of Satcom Resources, a global distributor and integrator of satellite communications equipment, said, “The move to MPEG-4 and HD is providing very cost effective upgrades for operators, improving bandwidth as much as 50 percent and MPEG-4 and is typically over an IP transport. For IP gear, we are seeing a lot of IP over DVB-S2. Of the DVB modulators and demodulators we’re selling now, more and more have an IP interface than, a serial interface or an ASI interface.”
Leading satellite video equipment vendors are embracing IP network architectures in their new products. Before long, it may be hard to imagine satellite video equipment without IP connections, be it on the multiplexor, modulator, encoder or receiver. The good news for users is IP can mean more choice and flexibility to choose satellite communications networks as a transport medium, and more flexibility to select among a wider variety of satellite bandwidth options.
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