BTV+ provides business TV and distance learning services, such as systems integration, operations, connectivity and distribution, to its clients.
The company traditionally has used a satellite-to-small-dish video content delivery platform. A centralized uplink at its operations center in Toronto sends content to North American locations from Mexico to Alaska to Hawaii. This centralized uplink has proven to be cost-effective; however, the backhaul of video from the origination site to the Toronto uplink could be costly. That's because video was backhauled using costly circuit-switched transport technology such as satellite links, leased lines and ATM.
The distance-learning company saw an opportunity to dramatically reduce the cost of video backhaul and enable the company to extend its services to a broader, global market. The key was to do it through IP networks. IP networks are a fraction of the cost of circuits and can be set up on a temporary basis. Using IP, the company could backhaul video from customers to its Toronto-based operations center using private networking infrastructure or the public Internet.
The advantages of IP delivery are reinforced with the availability of MPEG-4 AVC and its ability to deliver video at half the bit rate of MPEG-2. By reducing bandwidth requirements to half or less of that required of earlier technologies like MPEG-2, companies can dramatically reduce the cost and complexity of video distribution. Cost savings for backhaul network services alone can be as high as 80 to 90 percent when replaced by delivery over the public Internet. Private networks, where available, offer additional massive savings. In addition, IP networking infrastructure is much simpler to administer and maintain.
To accomplish its goals, the company purchased the Modulus Video ME1000 AVC SD video encoder and MD1000 AVC SD professional decoder, as well as Path 1 Ax100 gateways to migrate its video services. The video encoder and decoder readily deliver an AVC compressed stream over an IP network. The encoder delivers video in less than half the bandwidth of MPEG-2, yet it achieves excellent image quality with the support of sophisticated algorithms, including motion compensated integrated noise reduction, CABAC entropy coding, macro block adaptive field/frame coding, multi-frame reference support and a de-blocking filter.
IP networks, especially the public Internet, tend to exhibit impairment characteristics such as delay, jitter, packet losses and out-of-order packets that can spoil real-time delivery. The encoders and decoders are combined with forward error correction video gateway technology from partner Path 1. The video gateway protects video data for delivery over public networks. Using sophisticated algorithms, the unit first synchronizes transmitting and receiving gateways. Then time-stamped serial data is delivered to the receiver, where errors are corrected and synchronous digital video is output.
With network protection, operators can use the public Internet as a cost-effective and flexible means for transporting broadcast-quality video. The IP network is transformed into a long and reliable BNC cable, offering the ability to move video for less money than other video transport technologies. This shift from satellite to terrestrial transmission is surprisingly transparent and simple to use.
Today, between 1Mb/s and 10Mb/s of IP network bandwidth can be made available to 90 percent of U.S. businesses and households. These service packages are usually T1, bonded T1, DSL, E1 or broadband cable access. With these access points, it is possible to create an end-to-end IP network.
The new technology is already paying huge dividends. The distance-learning company has deployed a public Internet backhaul from several U.S. and Canadian cities, followed by satellite distribution. Bonded T1 services are used at the U.S. origination site, and an E10 is used at the studio in Canada, resulting in a video service bandwidth of 1.2Mb/s that is protected with 40 percent IP FEC overhead. BTV+ can now provide traditional satellite or new terrestrial backhaul with identical service level agreements, where the method of transport is transparent to the consumer.
IP has the potential to revolutionize the distance learning business, offering a low-cost method to execute backhaul to the headend and the potential to deliver services anywhere in the world. MPEG-4 AVC systems from Modulus Video make it possible to realize the vision of delivering good quality video over IP networks.
Bill Barr is CTO at BTV+ and Neil Brydon is director of product marketing at Modulus Video.