Michael Grotticelli /
05.02.2011 08:00 AM
Ensuring file delivery when it matters most

While many reporters are moving to wireless network delivery to quickly send footage back to the station — using public hotspots like the local Starbucks coffee shop — concerns about the availability of reliable bandwidth when it matters most continues to plague widespread adoption.

When you’ve got a late-breaking news story, the footage has to get to the station as quickly as possible to beat the competition. Jockeying for bandwidth among a room full of college students and soccer moms simply won't cut it. Broadcasters need a predictable service that’s sure to be available every time.

A company in Emeryville, CA, called Aspera has launched a new bandwidth management technology for cell phones and other mobile devices that it says helps stations facilitate faster file transfers over 3G, 4G/LTE and WiFi networks. It’s based on the company’s existing fast and secure protocol (called fasp, which was used over dedicated fiber lines and satellite uplinks to transport audio and video files during major events like the South African World Cup in 2010) and allows customers of its fasp-AIR — software-based transport — to achieve high-speed transfers (uploads and downloads) using Apple Mac iOS for iPhones and iPads, remotely in the field. (Support for Google Android smart phones is coming soon).

Using the Aspera Console management application, the station staff can then recognize a specific reporter and adjust specific channels to that reporter in the field, ensuring a reliable way to send footage back to the station.

“Broadcasters or anybody that has to send high-value footage often finds that when they need the network most, it’s congested and really hard to connect to,” Jason Goodman, director of product marketing at Aspera said. “That’s why stations are so leery of using public hotspots. Even during highly congested usage periods, when several stations are reporting from a scene concurrently, Aspera Mobile provides a highly predictable and controllable platform for uploading and downloading your content across wireless and satellite networks.”

Aspera’s platform offers location independence and is agnostic to the network transport method in use.

“It doesn't matter how far away you are from point A to point B, and how bad the conditions are in between those points. Aspera Mobile accommodates packet loss and ensures a reliable connection, agnostic to latency,” Goodman said, adding that latency and data packet dropouts are a common problem for video file transfers over transmission control protocol (TCP) over Internet Protocol (IP) networks.

There are many examples of this need for sending video posts shot with cell phone cameras out as quickly and efficiently as possible. New York Times reporters located around the world are shooting video with Apple iPhones and sending it in with Aspera’s fasp-AIR service. Ann Derry, editorial director for video and television, said the Apple phone is a “game changer” for the paper's video newsgathering operations. Having a secure and dependable connection to send the footage is critical to the success of her team.

Also using the Aspera Mobile platform is SendtoNews, a newswire-type agency (based in Canada) that connects content creators to all types of newsrooms — television and radio stations, print publications and online news websites. Media agencies subscribe to the service to collect newsworthy content through the SendtoNews content management system. Mobile users capture and upload content directly to these newsrooms using Aspera’s Mobile Uploader combined with SendtoNews’ cloud-based content management and delivery service, built on Aspera On-demand for Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Through SendtoNews, any user familiar with an Apple iPhone, iPad or Web browser can upload large images and HD video to newsrooms at maximum speed, in a single click. The Aspera Mobile Uploader software is loaded onto each mobile device in the field. Users then simply upload or download files using familiar tools on iOS. The company has fully integrated its end-to-end solution with Apple iOS, Aspera’s Mobile Uploader and Connect clients, and Aspera On-Demand for AWS.

Aspera Mobile is licensed as an add-on to Aspera Connect Server. These servers replace conventional FTP servers. Aspera software uses a capability called Virtual Link, which provides end-to-end quality of service through advanced bit rate adaptive algorithms and security tags across the transport and file layer to help recognize when more bandwidth is available or needed. Engineers back at the station can set priorities on individual transfers based on the user or device. Stringers with the most valuable footage can have a higher upload priority than other mobile users — and achieve predictable speeds and delivery times over congested networks.

The platform software can be customized and branded for individual users, and an SDK is available for mobile app developers. The company has also made an embeddable software library available that enables developers to implement faster and more predictable file downloads in their own applications.

Fasp-AIR is now available for use via an uploader app for the iPhone (Android smart phone support is in beta) that lets users move content generated by the device (pictures and videos) to mobile-enabled Aspera Connect servers.

Goodman said Aspera Mobile allows customers to collaborate in new ways. Broadcasters that leverage user-generated content can offer their contributors a quicker and more reliable way to share pictures and videos directly from their smart phones, by uploading them at maximum speed to Aspera content ingest servers.

The company said that fasp-AIR achieves significant performance improvements for upload and download speeds over typical IP networks — such as 3G, 4G/LTE, and 802.11 g/n infrastructures. Fasp-AIR is agnostic to high round trip times (RTT) and considerable packet loss associated with wireless and satellite networks, whereby fasp-AIR achieves on average three times the speed of regular TCP over 3G — and exponentially more TCP over 4G and 802.11. As bandwidth increases, Aspera’s transport scales with the bandwidth, fully utilizing the full bandwidth capacity of the link.

Over wireless WAN networks, users of fasp-AIR technology can efficiently utilize available bandwidth, regardless of delays, typical losses and network hops, achieving throughputs more than 10 to 100 times the speed of TCP on double-band 802.11n over networks with high packet loss and demonstrating great resilience to low signal strength, achieving over 10 times the speed of TCP on low-strength 802.11g/n.

The software is also designed to work fairly with other network traffic, alleviating bottlenecks on the already congested wireless networks and allowing content to be delivered with low-background trickle or high-priority foreground policies.



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