With a global video-over-IP fiber-optic network, it's now possible for broadcasters, news networks and content originators to feed content around the globe more reliably and cost-effectively than by satellite. A network that provides local and international transmission services over fiber offers the considerable cost and integration benefits of video-over-IP.
Until recently, securing bandwidth and accessing the required content through it has been just as hazardous with fiber as with satellite because of the ad hoc nature of the provisioning process. Provisioning by either satellite or fiber-optic network is a haphazard, nerve-wracking operation, prone to human error. Operators managing the uploading of content work under a lot of pressure, especially in breaking news events when there is fierce competition for access to coverage of a feature story. And operators can make mistakes.
The traditional way for a broadcaster or news agency to be sure of getting the content is to continually check — by phone — with the originator that it is on its way. (See Figure 1.) This seat-of-the pants approach also leaves the receiver open to the possibility that they will be at the back of the queue to secure the content they want and may miss out because bandwidth is no longer available at the time they need it.
In the case of a news story unfolding in a remote part of the world (a natural disaster, for example) it is unlikely that a broadcaster will have existing network arrangements that will allow it to access footage from the scene, which may come from a variety of sources. In the conventional approach, as soon as a broadcaster becomes aware that footage is available, the race starts to secure the transmission by phone negotiation. And the phone calls don't end there but are repeated to check that no problems have arisen with the feed, the network or the hardware.
Broadcasters usually maintain a barrage of calls to the supplier until the content is safely received. In addition, there is no way to verify the material until it is fully received. Only then can the broadcaster ensure it is the right footage and make sure the quality is acceptable.
For the industry to fully benefit from the advantages of a global video-over-IP network, it needs something more controllable than this. Genesis Networks has pioneered two important developments that put the customer in complete control of transferring material around the globe: Portable Bandwidth Services and the IRIS provisioning system. (See Figure 2.) With these two technologies, the process of managing bandwidth, routing and scheduling of video transmission services becomes less like trading on the floor of a stock exchange and more akin to attaching a file to an e-mail and sending it, with the broadcaster in control of every stage.
The bandwidth service allows Genesis network subscribers to monitor and shift bandwidth anywhere on the network when requirements change, making the most of the cost advantages this offers. This allows a news agency providing a video delivery service to broadcasters to move as the news moves, borrowing capacity from one or more bureaus to boost bandwidth between the bureau where the event is unfolding and the master control room.
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The IRIS application gives customers software control from any Web-enabled computer, and allows users to book, reserve and monitor their own network and occasional video services in real time. The software serves as a database management application tied to the Genesis provisioning system that automatically reserves the bandwidth, equipment and resources necessary for each of the client's services in real time.
Customers can control their video transmissions in their own master control studio — a crucial advantage in fast-breaking news situations — or from anywhere else using the software on a laptop connected to the Web. Because all major gateways are accessible from one center, the customer benefits from interconnections on a local, national and international scale.
In the busy production environment, any time saved in booking is a bonus, and here the template function allows IRIS users to book recurring services with minimal input. Templates contain the customer's details and subject names, the transmission start and finish times, origin and destination, time zone conversion, format conversion requirements and data details. The operator need only add the date before making the booking.
Because the IRIS software provides comprehensive information about network availability, broadcasters can manage their scheduling, booking occasional video transmission feeds and Portable Bandwidth whenever it is needed. Users can view the network in real time, determine when bandwidth is available on any given route and inspect the status of all the equipment selected for each video feed, with real-time network diagnostics and alarms identifying potential failures.
Broadcasters are also seeing the considerable advantages fiber transmission can offer in picture quality and reduced time delay. Genesis recently provided coverage for the Australian Open and major award shows worldwide. The fiber service provided superior quality and reduced delay over satellite transmissions. This was a considerable bonus for production staff overseeing commercial insertion for these live events. These advantages, combined with reduced costs — sometimes around half the price of a satellite feed — make compelling arguments for using fiber.
The level of flexibility offered by Portable Bandwidth Services over the Genesis fiber network with the complete control IRIS allows users to shift content around the globe more reliably and rapidly, in many cases developing new business opportunities via traditional broadcast and online environments.
Paul Dujardin is president and CEO of Genesis Networks.