Cellular Networks Make Gains for Backhaul Needs

Backhaul-over-cellular-networks provider LiveU continues to improve the quality of its services, giving sports networks and leagues more-reliable services in congested environments like sports stadiums and arenas. And after successful shoots in Cowboys Stadium during Super Bowl XLV and at the NBA All-Star Game in the Staples Center, cellular-based transmission seems ready for primetime.

Ken Zamkow, director of sales and marketing for LiveU, says that many of the improvements are a result of a new proprietary antenna technology for distribution over 3G and 4G/LTE networks (it dynamically uses the best available signals).

“It offers much stronger signals in areas where there is a lot of congestion or the user is far away from a cellular tower,” he explains. “In a test in a concrete basement, we were able to get 2 Mbps of uplink compared to 500 Kbps using USB modems.”

The cellular transmission system ties together multiple cellular transmitters to collectively provide enough throughput to pass 1080i HD signals via H.264 encoding. The transmitter is in a backpack worn by the camera operator, and the camera is connected via SD-SDI, HD-SDI, HDMI, analog inputs, or Firewire.

Enhancements exhibited at the NAB Show included an IFB channel for return audio without the need for a separate cellphone and latency of only 1 second.

“No one thought we would have 1-second latency over 3G or 4G,” says Zamkow. “And we can have that regardless of which technology is used, and we are improving the quality every day.”

Also new is store and forward. The system can record high-quality versions of live transmissions and then push the improved-resolution versions at a later time.

“Also,” adds Zamkow, “if the user is out of range of coverage, store and forward is an option.”

He says 4G is definitely an important addition to the cellular offerings because it can sometimes add several megabits per second of bandwidth compared with 3G.

“But it isn’t a silver bullet,” he points out. “It is only in 40 markets across the U.S., and there can still be congestion that can clog up the network, just like in 3G. But we can combine 3G and 4G from multiple carriers and maintain connectivity.”

The newest model, the LU60, supports resolutions ranging from CIF (360×240 pixels, standard definition) to 1080i. The LU1000 software on the studio side supports multiple simultaneous SDI or analog outputs to a TV switcher, as well as a variety of Web encoders.

And, for international-roaming needs, the LU60 offers dual SIM cards per modem as an option. This allows users to switch from working with a local SIM set in their own home country to a roaming set when travelling. The roaming set may be the recommended LiveU roaming offering or the users’ own roaming set. In CDMA markets, both CDMA and GSM are supported.

The lease model for the LU60 starts at $2,500 a month, and Zamkow says that is the most common model. “It covers the modems, the data plans, and the backpack is ready to go,” he says. “The user doesn’t need multiple modems or have to activate data plans. We figure all of that out for them.”