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Can hybrid transmission strategies ensure jitter-free content to multi-screens?

There are now many software-based solutions that can provide on-the-fly content delivery and reliable monitoring of QoS/QoE, thus empowering the delivery of jitter-free content to multi-screens. The name of the game is to cost-effectively capture and maintain eyeballs by embracing hybrid transmission strategies. Lara Tan reports.

With the rise of streaming to multi-screens, IP delivery is no longer constraint to broadcast TV. Instead, the new golden standard of IP-delivery is encompassing an array of connected video formats and codecs, thus enabling broadcasters to deliver pristine content over multiple platforms – IPTV, smartphones and laptops.

According to a research conducted by Media Partner Asia (MPA), from January-April 2020, online video streaming has increased by 60% in South-east Asia. Popular video platforms in the region such as Netflix and Viu experience 115% and 275% increase in video consumption respectively, while iQiyi emerges as a dark horse as it experiences an increase of 500%.

The research was carried out in four South-east Asian markets, namely Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

On the other side of the world, Europe is also experiencing a surge in video consumption. Coupled with the demand of network for teleworking during the lockdowns, networks are experiencing an unprecedented network congestion during peak hours of the day. In March this year, Vodafone has recorded a 50% surge in Internet traffic in some of the European countries.

To ease the network infrastructure, European Union has requested streaming giants such as Netflix to adapt the throughput of video streaming to SD (instead of HD) during critical working hours.

As IP solutions form the main backbone for multi-screens delivery, how best can media companies overcome the network congestion?

GatesAir wow-ed the IBC crowd last year with the launch of its Intraplex Ascent – a next-gen video and audio-over-IP that allows broadcasters to manage content for point to multi-point distribution

Ascent offers two distinct features for IP transport: the ability to manage multiple Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) streams on a centralised platform, and its integration of GatesAir’s Dynamic Stream Splicing (DSS) software.

Leveraging a single stream splicing buffer, DSS software supports the duplication of SRT streams with video and embedded audio over separate network paths; therefore, it further differentiates itself from the crowd as DSS diversifies SRT data across redundant networks, and enhances protection against packet losses and network failures.

“As our new Ascent SRT Gateway application supports stream splicing, we can effectively reduce latency for SRT re-transmission, and optimise network redundancy for video distribution,” says Keyur Parikh, vice-president and general manager, Intraplex Product Group, GatesAir.

Parikh adds: “This is especially useful for our customers who are distributing real-time video and audio over microwave, fibre and IP connections, and transporting those high-bandwidth streams to multiple studios or transmitter sites.”

The Ascent also allows broadcasters to ascend and support more streams and destinations on-demand, with video bandwidth speeds of up to 200Mb/s at the base level.

With less auxiliary hardware for various codecs, Ascent brings value to broadcasters by freeing up equipment racks and simplifying operations.

With its proven RelayCaster delivery of A/V over public IP networks, Rohde & Schwarz is offering high-quality real-time media contribution and redistribution links over long distances. Its RelayCaster using adaptive bitrate encoding is able to cope with wider bandwidth variations.

While mobile and remote broadcasting proliferates during the Covid-19 pandemic, Dejero’s Smart Blending Technology simultaneously aggregates 3G/4G/5G cellular connections from multiple wireless network providers to deliver enhanced reliability, greater bandwidth, and expanded coverage for remote broadcasting.

Richard McClurg, Dejero’s marketing vice-president, says: “The option to further blend broadband and satellite connections, or in fact any other IP connection, means that if a connection is lost or becomes congested, we automatically re-route packets in real time to other connection paths to ensure high-quality video transport.”

McClurg maintains: “Being able to access connectivity is the key to transmitting video from breaking news scenes, at major sporting events in crowded or remote locations and during extreme weather conditions, when signal strength varies from network to network.”

The virtualisation of hybrid-IP transmission and workflows during the current pandemic has posed a new challenge for media operators.

In a recent poll conducted by Zixi, a global leader in live video-over-IP, 81% of the global media companies believes that, in the event of a Black Swan event, they require a permanent remote workforce to ensure reliable transmission of broadcast-quality live-streaming operations from remote locations.

Zixi has since provided three-month complimentary use of its ZEN Master, a cloud-based Video Control Plane to facilitate the provisioning, orchestration monitoring and management of live video streams by workers in remote places.

“While an abundance of Zixi’s customers have virtualised their workflows and have been able to reduce on-site employees by as much as 80%, many media organisations have not – and are now scrambling,” said Gordon Brooks, executive chairman and CEO, Zixi. “The number of companies that have broken the glass on what were long-range plans is keeping us very busy and we hope we’re making a difference.”

Qligent, a global software developer in edge solutions, is also making a difference through its innovative solutions that allow monitoring and visualisation of Media Quality of Service (QoS) and Consumer Quality of Experience (QoE). Its software-based monitoring solution, Qligent Vision, aggregates all quality and operational data of the distribution chain – terrestrial, cable, satellite or IPTV networks – into a single-view for real-time monitoring. It also supports video codecs of MPEG-2, MPEG-4 H.264/AVC, HEVC and various IP flows: UDP/RTP unicast/multicast/ broadcast streams.

The Qligent Vision also envisions the future through data mining and machine learning to enhance QoS, as well as addresses issues that confronts broadcasters, MVPDs and OTT service providers.

Lang Cooksey, product manager, Qligent, tells APB+: “Monitoring IP signals at multiple points in the distribution chain for QoE and QoS is the best way to ensure that the transmission meets the needs of the content provider and its customer expectations.

“These tools can be used to dig deeper and assist in finding root causes of QoE and QoS issues.

“They can also be used to analyse trends and issues to help predict and prevent problems.”

Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the largest broadcasters in the US, has deployed a hybrid Qligent Vision to monitor its QoS/QoE, compliance and transmission across 191 TV stations in 89 markets that cover more than 600 channels of programming.

Qligent Vision is deployed as an on-premise hardware; its monitoring probes will accommodate compliance and QoS/QoE monitoring.

For instance, the probes will ingest ASI, IP and RF signals, initiate high-resolution recording, and transfer content to the cloud for compliance monitoring and recording.

Furthermore, it monitors Sinclair’s transmitters and RF facility management systems.

“Qligent has been a true partner for Sinclair, working diligently to ensure their feature set and system architecture aligned with our goals of minimising on-premise hardware, centralising data aggregation and leveraging cloud-based management, which collectively make Qligent Vision a great choice,” says Mike Kralec, VP of Technical Operations and deputy CTO, Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Kralec continues: “They ensured that our licensing not only matched our deployment model, but also provided a low total cost of ownership, ensured our training and addressed our change-management concerns, and that simple scalability and resiliency goals were also accounted for.

“We see this as a critical tool for enabling data-driven operational decision-making well into the future.”

For many organisations, Covid-19 has accelerated their digi­tal transformation process. In the media industry, virtual and remote broadcasting will emerge as the new norm in the coming months. Thus, it is vital that media operators harness hybrid transmission strategies to ensure that their existing legacy structures are efficient and cost-effective.

Today, there are many software-based solutions that can provide on-the-fly content delivery and reliable monitoring of QoS/QoE, thereby empowering the delivery of jitter-free content to multi-screens and cater to a wider range of demanding viewers.

The name of the game is to cost-effectively capture and maintain eyeballs by embracing hybrid transmission strategies.

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