IP newsgathering grows in stature – Part II

Editor’s note: Part I of “IP newsgathering grows in stature” is available on the Broadcast Engineering website.

Hurricane Sandy
At first glance, it would seem such a bold decision may be dangerous. After all, Hurricane Sandy disrupted operation of a quarter of the cell phone towers in the 10 states affected by the storm, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

As Del Parks, VP of engineering and operations for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, notes, such cell tower disruptions can spell disaster for IP newsgathering. “If cell service goes down, you have a problem,” he says, “but LiveU (the brand of bonded IP newsgathering system deployed by Sinclair) as an extension of traditional newsgathering puts you in places you couldn’t be.”

Two Sinclair stations deployed IP newsgathering systems during the storm. “To say they (the IP newsgathering systems) were invaluable would be an understatement,” says Parks. “They expanded our coverage, and put viewers into the storm.”

Ka-band satellite services, such as Inmarsat’s BGAN and ViaSat’s Excede Newsgathering, provide a way to sidestep disruptions to the cell service. Jim Casabella, director, Advanced Technology, ABC Owned Television Station Group, says roughly one-third of the group’s news crews have some sort of IP newsgathering and that it is looking to supplement them with Ka-band connectivity in the near future.

“One of the Achilles heels of the IP newsgathering is guaranteed availability,” says Casabella. “When it works it works. What IP over Ka-band gives you is guaranteed QoS. I think Ka-band will allow IP newsgathering to grow and be a larger part of the toolkit than it would have been otherwise.”

The bottom line appears to be that IP newsgathering is growing in prominence, most see it as a supplement to traditional ENG and SNG, but at least one pioneering station group is committing to it entirely. With Ka-band satellite service to supplement cell networks, that approach may be less risky than it seems on the surface.