TranSPORT 2017: Nature of Contribution Links Changes as Public Internet Plays Bigger Role

Increased use of IP offers new flexibility, cost savings, efficiency

Once upon a time, those involved in the contribution business (and their clients) had one choice: look to the sky, find a satellite, and work to ensure that the signal gets to where it needs to be. But, over the past decade, the contribution business has been transformed, with the use of fiber, the internet (both public and private), IP packetization, and even bonded-cellular signals giving rise to new levels of flexibility, cost savings, and efficiency. That transformation was examined by an SVG TranSPORT panel that focused on the explosion of IP contribution.

The use of the public internet was at the top of the agenda for the conversation. Andre Carrington, senior solutions engineer, Strategic Content Division, Level 3 Communications, said that the decision to use the public internet rather than private internet is all about costs and the effort to lower them. One tip is to stick with carriers that have larger networks, which can help avoid pass-through peering points.

At SVG’s TranSPORT event, (from left) Fox Sports’ Mike Bany, Level 3’s Andre Carrington, Intelsat’s Rob Cerbone, MIX1’s Susanna Mandel-Mantello, and Aspera’s Jonathan Solomon discussed the current state of IP as it relates to contribution needs.

“Your mileage may vary, depending on the public infrastructure and getting a deterministic workflow,” he said. “A larger backbone allows you to put more control on top of it and get value.”

Carrington added that Level 3 considers the public internet a tool to be put to use alongside dark fiber or bonded cellular. But relying on the public internet also means potentially relying on less-than-reliable last-mile providers. That is why it is important to make sure that the main contribution-service provider has a solid list of network partners throughout the entire delivery chain.

Mike Bany, principal technologist, business strategy and planning, Fox Sports, reported that Fox uses live IP transport for 6,400 events a year and that the vast majority of those events ride over private networks. One exception is events like high school sports, but the issue is that any time and cost savings are often offset by things like firewall issues.

“It can’t be cookie-cutter, as every venue is different and the people there usually don’t know firewalls or connectivity, so it is difficult to get consistency [in service],” he added. “And you now spend tens of thousands on a firewall to stream on a secure encoder. It takes a significant amount of work and engineering time.”

Carrington agreed, noting that, for services transported via the public internet, the user ends up investing more in the firewall than in the transport pipe itself.

Security and reliability issues in using a public network can be overcome, Jonathan Solomon, senior sales and systems engineer, Aspera (an IBM Company), pointed out. That begins with restricting the network to users that need to use it and possibly limiting what those users can do on it (for example, only transfer data). It is paramount to have no web ports that are open to the outside world.

And speed over public internet services is an issue.

“You can have a Comcast modem and be good to go, but the speeds are around 3 Mbps or 4 Mbps, while a business circuit will have guaranteed bandwidth for a big event,” said Solomon. For a news event, for example, production teams will pull up to a venue and do multipath distribution where all the paths are between 5 Mbps and 9 Mbps.

Susanna Mandel-Mantello, VP, global, OU, sports, and events, MX1, said that, for a lot of globally distributed events, satellite is still the priority for one-to-many distribution.

“Most of our end-to-end, one-to-one IP work has been booming and working very well,” she said, “with most of the work being done in the U.S., with only a couple in Europe.”

As for the public internet, the number of events and feeds MX1 has done using the public internet is growing, and, by 2020, Mandel-Mantello believes, the number of events making use of the public internet will ramp up quite a bit. But MX1’s mix of services, thanks especially to its being owned by SES and having access to satellites and dedicated fiber, makes MX1 top of mind for global sports agencies and leagues like the NFL and EPL.

Added Rob Cerbone, VP/GM, media, Intelsat, “The use of public internet will continue to grow as the commoditization of equipment lowers the bar to produce events. Then, you can have a cost-effective solution for something like field hockey and lacrosse. So I see [the use of public internet] growing overall.”

The key for those involved in offering transmission services is to have flexibility to best meet client needs. Cerbone cited that as one of the reasons Intelsat recently partnered with Dejero on a new bonded-cellular solution: Dejero CellSat leverages Dejero’s patented network-blending technology to combine cellular connectivity from multiple mobile-network carriers with Ku-band IP connectivity provided by Intelsat. There is no need to schedule satellite time, saving crews valuable time and removing the constraint of broadcasting within a certain time window. In addition to managing the fluctuating bandwidth of individual cellular connections, CellSat software dynamically allocates satellite bandwidth for optimal performance.

“It uses IP-blended cellular and satellite to provide a more robust connection,” he said.

Solomon said security is of utmost importance. The old satellite model of requiring decoders on the receiving end to authorize content delivery must move to the internet if the move to private networks is to become widespread.

“The biggest challenge is people and getting them out of the mind-set of using satellite, which they have been using for 40 years and works just fine,” said Solomon. “That is the biggest thing to change to get people to move to IP.”

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