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FOCUS: SatCom In The SNG Market
by Bhumika Bakshi, C-COM

Developments in the Satellite News Gathering (SNG) industry over the last 20 years have been dramatic. They have changed the way we consume news and view world events. No longer is “reporting the news” enough — consumers want to become “part of the news.” This expectation translates into having Live News available for every major story. Innovations in satellite and Internet technologies have enabled much of this advancement.

The emergence of a new generation of satellite communications equipment combines encoding, modulation, and up conversion in a compact footprint and lightweight package. Such is ideal for newsgathering applications that require flexibility, responsiveness, and maneuverability. Once at its destination, the equipment can be inserted into the heart of action, wherever that may be, allowing for a live broadcast.

Technology Shift
The earliest SNG communication systems used analog modulation, similar to conventional television and radio. During the 1990s, digital modulation supplanted analog modulation, giving rise to the newer technology of Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG).

A modern DSNG vehicle, once equipped with an iNetVu mobile auto-deploy antenna system and the associated equipment required to convert the Video signals so they can be transmitted directly up to a satellite, can be deployed practically anywhere. The video stream is transmitted between the vehicle and a geostationary satellite, and between the satellite and a control room run by a broadcast station or a TV network. In the most recent DSNG systems, Internet Protocol (IP) is used to accommodate this feed.

When deployed in the field, the auto-deploy iNetVu antenna automatically aligns itself with the appropriate satellite at a press of a button, reducing the need for a highly skilled operator to be present. It can be equipped with a number of different controllers offering solutions for a varied range of applications, with or without the need for an external computer to operate the system. The equipment is highly reliable and flexible and can be deployed from a transportable case, or it can be mounted on the roof of a vehicle. The iNetVu antennas are easy to configure and are sturdy. They operate even in the toughest of environmental conditions. The demand for mobility, lightweight, ease of use, and fast deployment, all were the key drivers in the development of such systems.

Mobile broadcasters have become increasingly interested in establishing direct communications between the DSNG vehicle and the home studio. If the mobile vehicle is not able to communicate with the studio once it has reached its destination, the only option is to record the event for eventual retransmission. Unfortunately, however, that news will be often be stale by the time it can be presented.

More often than not, the site of the news to be covered is outside cell phone coverage areas. This adds an extra layer of difficulty to the reporter’s dilemma. With a two-way IP link between the studio and the DSNG vehicle, the iNetVu system allows the vehicle to connect to the corporate network within minutes of arriving at the location. This can even include Voice Over IP (VOIP), which delivers standard voice communication (telephone) in addition to data and video.

Extending the range of the corporate network over a two-way satellite link into the DSNG vehicle has revealed additional news reporting efficiencies. Once a corporate LAN is established inside the vehicle, journalists are able to start accessing video material from the studio library. This extends the artistic ability of the journalist and makes it possible to build a complete news report using live clips from the site of the event, as well as library clips and contributions from journalists in other vehicles located anywhere in the world. The idea is to enable journalists in the field to manage delivery of broadcast quality MPEG-2/4 content.

Using an iNetVu 1200 system, a nine megabits per second uplink to the satellite was successfully demonstrated. This allowed the broadcast of one HD feed and one SD feed, both simultaneously. The feeds were also returned to the vehicle for monitoring. Customers in the SNG segment are using iNetVu systems with 40, 80,125, and higher wattage transmitters (BUCs) for high rate of data transmission from remote locations. In fact, the system is capable of being used with up to 185 Watt BUC that fits on the feed arm of the 1.2M iNetVu platform.

SNG On The Halt
One of the innovators in the field of mobile satellite communications, C-COM has developed a range of mobile auto-deploying antennas and controllers named iNetVu™, that allows the delivery of satellite-based, broadband Internet, video, and VoIP services into vehicles while stationary, virtually anywhere one can drive. In conjunction with SNG specific equipment, the iNetVu™ antenna systems makes it possible to deliver live content to the audience. Journalists deploy the antenna then acquire an Internet connection, all with the push of a button. This convenience makes it possible to deliver cost effective ‘on the spot’ news reporting without the need for in-depth technical knowledge regarding the ins-and-outs of satellite technology.

HD (High Definition) broadcasting requires broadcasters examine new ways in which to acquire HD footage. The emergence of DVB-S2, an enhanced version of the DVB-S standard traditionally used for SD broadcasting over satellite, further adds to the efficacy of HD delivery. The iNetVu Controllers support DVB-S and DVB-S2 broadcast standards. The DVB-S or DVB-S2 tuner is an integrated part of all iNetVu controllers and provides the option to find the satellite, with and without the use of a satellite modem. The latest iNetVu 7000 Controller offers the user the option of configuring all of the required parameters by simply using the controller’s front panel buttons.

The iNetVu in combination with the various advanced broadcast technologies available today presents a great opportunity for efficient and cost effective delivery of HD broadcasts. Broadcasters can increase their high-value, premium offerings with the introduction of HD standards.

The demand for SNG solutions started in the 1980s when the first Fixed Satellite Antenna was mounted on a truck for mobility. Most of these solutions required the presence of a highly qualified broadcast engineer to operate the equipment and to manually establish the desired satellite link from a remote site. Today, using the iNetVu mobile auto-deploy antenna systems, a simple ‘One Button Solution’ makes antenna operation possible by anyone.

With newsgathering opportunities on the increase in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, as well as in China and other Pacific Rim countries, iNetVu systems are being deployed for DSNG applications in increasing numbers around the world. C-COM Satellite Systems develops, manufactures, and deploys fully automated, auto-deploy mobile antenna systems in six antenna sizes, with three different controller types and an endless configuration of modems, modulators, BUCs, and LNBs.

Though this segment is a new market for C-COM, its CTO Bilal Awada says, “The SNG market is a new opportunity for us and we believe that we have the ability to provide our existing platforms for this market place and deliver cost effective solutions to customers who can benefit from the versatility and reliability of the iNetVu products. Our systems have been proven to work well in this market segment and we are excited to cater to new customers interested in deploying this technology for their varied applications.”

One of C-COM’s European dealers, Multi Media Satellite Services (M2Sat), has been offering broadband satellite solutions, equipment, systems, and services to their customers in the press and media markets. Their signature DriveAway DSNG terminal is a vehicle with an integrated iNetVu antenna system. According to M2Sat, “We have selected the iNetVu antennas due to their high quality and cost effectiveness.”

The iNetVu system, when used during the Chinese Sichuan earthquake relief effort, delivered remarkable results. Whether the vehicle was parked on a slope or a cliff, it would quickly find the needed satellite and journalists obtained instant communication and transmitted video in real time. Even during strong winds, the iNetVu system would re-peak and automatically reestablish communications and maintain the live link.

“We have used the iNetVu systems during wind speeds of 100 km/h, and the live broadcast did not get interrupted. This unit was deployed every day more than 15 times each day for around 40 days. It always found the satellite in less than two minutes and it operated flawlessly and reliably each and every time it was deployed. We are very impressed by the quality and reliability of the iNetVu product and look forward to buying more of them,” says Mr. Yao Zhongbo, broadcast engineer for China based CCTV, China’s largest national TV network.

With other customers such as PLA news department, SVT, ESL, 2nd City SNG, Sohu and the like, C-COM’s customer base spans the U.S., Europe, and the Asian continent. With the introduction of new auto-deploy products, C-COM further aims to provide a new spectrum of DSNG solutions that will offer greater ease of operation.

“We are looking forward to becoming a key player in the DSNG market place. The iNetVu antennas have been field proven on all continents with over 1800 installed sites. We expect to see this momentum to be carried over to the DSNG market place that is a rapidly growing and will be an important market segment for us,” says Dr. Leslie Klein, President & CEO, C-COM Satellite Systems Inc.

DSNG is a vibrant and technically demanding sector of the global satellite industry. Keeping abreast with the latest trends in the DSNG market, players such as C-COM Satellite Systems Inc. are hoping to expand their customer base by delivering high quality, cost effective, and reliable auto-deploy products to meet the needs of the rapidly growing, global DSNGmarket segment.

About the author
Bhumika Bakshi earned her Bachelors in Business Administration (BBA) from IP University, New Delhi, India, specializing in marketing management. In 2002, she went to Pune, to pursue her Masters in Business Administration (MBA), specializing in International Business. During her masters, she also guest lectured to BBA students in the college. Upon completion, she started her professional career in Delhi and in 2007, She was hired by C-COM Satellite Systems Inc. in March 2008 where her prime responsibility is to manage the company’s branding, advertising, promotions, and PR activities. She accomplished the redesign and content building for the new corporate website in co-ordination with an outside agency and writes articles for the Company.

C-COM contributors to the article

Dr. Leslie Klein
   President & CEO, C-COM Satellite Systems Inc.

Jim Duncan
   Director, Product Development

Joe R. Dubois
   Senior Consultant

Jonathan Lee
   Director of Sales, Asia Pacific

Paul Seguin
   Application Specialist