Bonded Cellular Decreases before It Increases

Bob Kovacs editor of TVTechnology writes an interesting article on how bonded cellular is now used by broadcasters.

Bonded Cellular Shrinks as It Grows

Improved telco networks provide more reliable connections Ten years ago, I worked for Sprint Nextel as an engineer on the 2 GHz relocation project (aka the “BAS Relocation”). At that time, broadcasters didn’t have much choice to get signals from remote feeds back to the studio: It was either ENG microwave or satellite trucks. I stayed with the project until 2010, and although a couple of alternatives were percolating in the background, it wasn’t until a year or two later that they exploded into the minds of broadcasters. It first hit the streets in the form of backpack cellular radios that used multiple 3G cell phone connections to transport signals back to the studio. As telcos such as AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile acquired more spectrum and implemented 4G technology, digital bandwidth that could be used for broadcast-quality video increased rapidly. With two 4G connections paired at the camera, it’s perfectly reasonable to get a transmission channel of 20 Mbps or greater—easily enough for a high-quality link, especially when using H.264 encoding. Compared to microwave trucks (virtually all of which had been upgraded to digital as a result of the 2 GHz relocation project), bonded cellular has a big advantage: It has high-bandwidth return capability for cuing and IFB built into the system. The big disadvantage of bonded cellular is that the digital link can vary widely from lousy to great—you might be sure you’ll get 20 Mbps, but find out that it won’t go higher than 3 Mbps. As telcos continue to improve their systems and build additional 4G sites, getting higher speeds in the future is almost certain. Although current 4G technology would seem perfect for occasional broadcast remotes, a 5G standard is in development. It promises to have more efficient spectrum usage and to serve more users with faster data speeds from each cell site. “We’re really excited to see the rollout of the fifth generation wireless technologies because we’ve been closely involved since the days of 2G and it is amazing to see the bandwidth and technology advancements,” said Avi Cohen, COO and cofounder of Hackensack, N.J.-based LiveU. “But it’s important to remember that these are built for consumers and we are optimizing these networks for professional video applications. We’ve heard this same story through the years—that 3G is going to be fast enough, LTE is going to give us plenty of speed for video, and so on. But as cellular networks get better, the demand for more bandwidth and reliability continues to grow because we keep filling the capacity.” Read the full article here.

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