When a major American TV network maxed out its cable broadcasting bandwidth, few solutions came to mind. Adding to the existing analog system was out of the question. A digital cable (QAM) technology was considered. However, it required a new digital cable-ready TV or set-top box for every user, which presented logistical and financial burdens.
More than 100 remote feeds are received and distributed daily to the news and sports production staff. Using the analog closed circuit Cat 5 system, the TV channels are streamed to individual TV sets placed on top of each other at the user's workstation. With each TV set capable of displaying only one channel at a time, multiple channel monitoring called for multiple TV sets occupying a large part of the working space.
The current coax cable system presented further challenges. TV streaming was accessible only in key production areas due to cables' limited span, cable bandwidth capacity was fully occupied, and each TV set called for high upkeep costs.
The network turned to the Optibase IPTV system approach. Leveraging the network's corporate LAN, the platform offered all users, regardless of their location in the building, equal access to content directly on their desktops. With carrier-grade MGW encoders and the EZ TV IPTV system, the network gained an advanced IPTV system for internal video distribution. (See Figure 1.)
The in-house IPTV system
IPTV traffic shares the same facilities and pipeline as the rest of the corporate data, including e-mail, Web browsing, archiving and various other production tools. With this in mind, the network seamlessly replaced its analog system with the Optibase IPTV solution in just a matter of days. The system installation was quick and, just as importantly, nonintrusive to day-to-day operations.
The platform was initially installed for 200 SD channels, with plans to add more SD and HD channels in the near future. Because bandwidth was a critical factor of the design, H.264 (MPEG-4) compression was chosen. Operating each streamed channel at about 1.7Mb/s yields sufficient quality for monitoring purposes yet occupies a reasonably streamlined profile in the network's GigE backbone. The solution also called for the deployment of dedicated IPTV set-top decoders for users who needed to view the channels on video monitors. The STBs required a dedicated connection to the LAN but little additional support once activated.
Beyond the obvious benefit of achieving higher broadband capacity at top broadcast-quality H.264, the EZ system enabled the transmission of the more than 200 digital streams, directly to the thousands of desktops and large TV screens located throughout the facility. In particular, the IPTV system connected previously unconnected areas to the corporate broadcasting network.
Whether working on the first floor or on the top floor, network PVR services, real-time corporate message broadcasting, ongoing updates on current or newly available channels and other corporate TV applications became accessible to all users throughout the building. Video services are distributed with far greater reach and flexibility than could have been provided by its previous conventional cable TV system.
The system offers direct streaming of the TV channels to users' desktops and TV screens in a multichannel mosaic display of up to 16 streams simultaneously. Each employee can now simply select the streams to watch from a dynamically updating channel guide.
The MGW 5100 carrier-grade TV streaming platform offers high levels of availability, reliability and robustness with no single point of failure due to built-in N+K redundancy and hot swapping capabilities. The system's modularity also allows for the combination of MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 H.264 interface cards in a single chassis, thus enabling optimal transmission of each type of broadcast content, transcoding DVB MPEG-2 sources to all formats or encoding MPEG-1/2/4 and VC-1 technology.
The EZ system offers a quick and reliable in-house video delivery solution. Its architecture provides simple and secure installation, distribution and maintenance of the application via the network. Its built on a browser-based architecture, which allows immediate access to all content, via a Web browser, from every desktop throughout the organization.
A centralized HTTP management application enables the IT administrators to manage users, content and player distribution by remote access. With HD broadcasting becoming increasingly used, the IPTV system offers easy upgrades to low bit rate H.264 HD streams.
Finally, the system offers a customizable user interface. This feature allows easy personalization of the system's user interface by the company itself. By simply adding the company's logo and adjusting the colors, the system's look and feel is transformed into the customer's, making it an in-house solution in every sense of the word.
Erez Dafnai is product manager for Optibase.