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17/11/2015

Enterprise-Grade Connectivity From Consumer-Grade Internet

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Nearly all aspects of Media Production can be done over the Cloud, from Creation to Production, Playout, Post Production, Remote Storage and Archiving, writes Johnnie Dymock, Director of Outside Broadcast & IP Connectivity specialist Wired Broadcast Ltd.

But just as "the cloud" promises almost limitless possibilities for interconnected working, with all the benefits of flexibility and efficiency, our ambitions can be limited by the fundamental problem of "first-mile" connectivity. That is, our internet connection at the studio, office or on location is often inadequate. The quality of this connection ultimately draws the line between what's possible in theory, and what we can do in practice. So how do we define the quality of an internet connection – speed, reliability, packet loss, latency or jitter?

First off, a generalised but important distinction can be made between the needs of real-time and non-real-time applications. With non-real-time applications moderate packet-loss, latency and jitter can (to some extent) be imperceptible. We are generally interested in the available bandwidth upstream and down, as it determines how quickly we can move files around and access content. And it's the bandwidth or "speed" statistic by which we're all used to judging an internet connection.

But with low-delay, real-time applications packet loss, latency and jitter performance is just as important as bandwidth. An MPEG codec will deliver broadcast-quality audio using just 64kbit/s, yet it's possible to get horrible results when using it with a mobile broadband connection that delivers several Megabit/s on a speed test. The reason for this is that real-time apps rely on data being received in a constant linear stream, with no pauses or gaps in the packet-flow, i.e. no jitter.

In the broadcast audio example, a 1⁄4 second pause caused by temporary congestion on the mobile network could cause nasty audio breakup, yet be imperceptible when browsing, sending emails, transferring files – or doing a speed test. And with broken-up sound or pictures, it doesn't necessarily follow that there is packet loss; late packets have the same effect as lost packets, because they don't arrive in time to be decoded in the correct sequence.

At temporary sites such as at an OB, our chances of accessing a decent, uncontended internet connection can be strictly limited. Consumer internet access via 3G/4G or Wi-Fi may be readily available, but poor quality and unreliable; dedicated satellite connectivity is costly and often impractical. Even at our studio or office, business-grade internet can carry an impractical premium, or simply be unavailable.

So how can we improve the bandwidth, jitter, packet loss and reliability of consumer-grade internet connections in order to take advantage of their ubiquity? The answer is by using a multi-channel VPN router that combines several internet "channels" into a single, high-quality connection.

Viprinet Europe GmbH (www.viprinet.com) manufacture a range of bonding routers that not only combine the upstream and downstream bandwidth of multiple internet connections (such as ADSL/3G/4G/Wi-Fi), but also eliminate or significantly mitigate packet loss and jitter, by using techniques such as Distributed Forward Error Correction (DFEC) and Diversity.
Using Viprinet multichannel VPN routers, broadcasters including the BBC and CBS have been able to successfully incorporate consumer internet technologies into their day-to-day production workflow.

www.wiredbroadcast.com

This article is also available to read at BFV online.

(JP/LM)
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