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07/11/2017

Using Mobile Connectivity For Outside Broadcast

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Outside Broadcast using mobile connectivity and the internet has big attractions, not least of which is the relatively low-cost of connection, certainly compared with having to rely on a satellite truck.

Mobile Networks boast 95% internet coverage here in the UK and with data costing only a few pounds per day and the ability to “get online” from pretty well anywhere, using them for Outside Broadcast is a tempting prospect.

With the advent of 4G, decent download – and more important – upload data speeds – are achievable which, for Audio Broadcast using something like the industry-standard ACCESS IP Audio Codec, reliable, stable two-way audio is easily achievable using even a 3G connection, as something less than 100kbps is all that is needed for reliable full-bandwidth stereo audio. On the other hand, to send and receive HD or SD Video (with audio of course), data rates some 20x higher (or more) are needed to provide full frame-update and full resolution and whilst 4G promises upload speeds sometimes as high as 15Mbps, these can often be less than 2MBps which, based on real-time streaming, is not usually sufficient for live broadcast.

Using more than one data channel at-a-time and combining the data throughput is often the way to go and video codecs normally provide the possibility of using a number of data dongles at the same time. On the other hand, even for audio where there is normally sufficient data bandwidth, using two or more networks – multi-streaming – serves to further increase the reliability and resilience and a combination of the two is used also in Comrex's LiveShot 2-way video codec which is the video version of the ACCESS Audio Codec, both of which use Crosslock connections over a number of networks.

The Internet is a shared resource and it is not uncommon to find at an empty football stadium that there is wonderful mobile connectivity. Fill that stadium with 50,000 people with smartphones and the cell that during the testing had only a couple of users is now congested and connectivity is virtually non-existent. One solution is to try to use another network which generally means another SIM, or even better, as many networks as are available. But managing the data packages for all these networks is difficult; SIM-1 might have 200GB data available on Network 1 whilst SIM-2 has 80GB on Network 2 and SIM-3 has 15GB on Network 3 and so on – but it turns out that Network 2 has the best connectivity and therefore is carrying the lion's share of the data causing it to run out of data whilst the other SIMs still have their allowances virtually intact. And at the end of the month, often this data "expires", all of which ends up being an administrative nightmare – sometimes with big surprises. A tale is told of one user who popped a SIM from a supermarket mobile phone into a streaming device and because there was no data contract associated with it, ended up with a bill of £10K for "out-of-contract data"; so be warned.

How much easier – not to mention cost-effective – it would be if all SIMs could access a pool of data on at least some (if not all) the available networks and that no data ran "out of contract".

Vortex has finally tackled this problem and now has mobile contracts available that can be tailored to suit the user's requirements, providing Roaming both overseas but also here in the UK – and at sensible prices. These have been available to larger organizations for some time but are now possible for even individual users.

Instead of just acting as a wholesaler, the SIMs are provided by a Mobile Network Operator (MNO) that holds a regional spectrum licence. As it is also a full member of the GSM Association (GSMA), direct roaming agreements with top-tier mobile networks have been negotiated, giving customers global roaming access and passing on lower rates and significant savings.

The really clever thing is that because agreements are already in place with all the UK Mobile Operators – and because voice and data are much the same price as buying directly from those operators – SIMs work on any available network for both Voice and Data. This avoids having to carry SIMs from all networks in case coverage on one is limited, having pre-charged them with Voice minutes and Data which usually expires after a month. Data does not expire and a single pool of data can be shared between multiple SIMs without each one having a data limit.

SIMs can be used in phones, GSM devices, USB dongles, laptops – in fact fit any unlocked device that can take a conventional SIM card. There is also a novel "SIM Sticker" which provides dual SIM capability, seamlessly adding the Roaming capability to the existing mobile SIM package.

Image: ACCESS and LiveShot use multiple mobile networks for connectivity.

info@vtx.co.uk

www.vtx.co.uk

This article also features in the November edition of Broadcast Film & Video.

(JP/LM)
Solidmate Ltd Memory Card Hire London

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