Blending cloud connections to ensure broadcast video quality

cloud broadcasters Intelsat
Image credit: Oleksiy Mark /

Broadcasters want to use the cloud for easier video distribution – the challenge is maintaining broadcast quality levels in the first and last mile. Intelsat and partner Dejero reckon they’ve fixed that by offering multiple connectivity options that can be blended together automatically.

Like just about everyone else these days, broadcasters want to go to the cloud. As viewing habits change and more people watch video online on a variety of devices in addition to their TV sets (many of which may also be online), broadcasters are faced with increasing operational complexity. The cloud promises to greatly simplify video distribution in multiple formats, whether it’s live broadcasts or SVOD – the snag for broadcasters is how to do that without sacrificing video quality.

The problem lies mainly in the first and last mile connecting video sources and destinations to the cloud and ensuring there’s enough bandwidth to deal with traffic spikes or heavy video usage, according to Terry Bleakley at Intelsat.

“Moving to IP and the cloud is becoming more important for broadcasters, but when we speak to them, they tell us their biggest pain point is getting broadcast quality using the cloud, in particular the first and last mile,” Bleakley told Disruptive.Asia in the CommunicAsia section of ConnecTechAsia 2019 in Singapore last week. “They want to be able to ensure that the first and last mile have enough capacity to maintain broadcast quality levels.”

To that end, Intelsat recently partnered with Dejero to create a solution that essentially gives everyone in the broadcast value chain enough visibility in the cloud to manage video distribution points and ensure sufficient bandwidth is available.

The “IronRoute” service – which Dejero and Intelsat officially launched at this year’s NAB event in April, and which was demoed at CommunicAsia last week – enables customers to set up their video distribution routes by selecting the origination points and end points – a video platform or a streaming server, for example – and drag-and-drop to connect them up.

Users also have three cloud connectivity options available – fiber, cellular and satellite (which is what Intelsat brings to the table). The connection options can be prioritized depending on availability and the node’s location. Bleakley says Dejero’s technology allows IronRoute to provide “virtual bonding networks” that enable the management software to automatically use the least congested route or use other routes to add enough capacity to alleviate that congestion.

“Say you’re streaming broadcast video over a public broadband network and it starts to jitter and experience packet loss,” Bleakley explains. “Dejero’s management software looks at the origin and the destination to and from the cloud every 150 milliseconds the cloud and make sure that the quality is there – as soon as it sees it drop, it will pull in either cellular or satellite to compliment the service and provide resilience to that device. So it’s bonding broadband with cellular and satellite.”

If all else fails, the software can instruct the encoder at the source to throttle the stream using adaptive bit rate (ABR) technology. The customer can also set a threshold for how low ABR can go to ensure a minimum quality level.

Bleakley also says the solution is highly scalable. So, for example, “If  you have 100 sites from an affiliate and some of them connect to the cloud at 5 Mbps and suddenly you need to recruit them to support a major live broadcast event, you can use the Dejero software to upgrade them to 15 Mbps straightaway.”

The service is targeted at just about everyone in the broadcast ecosystem, from content originators to broadcasters with lots of remote affiliates that typically need an expensive fixed-line connection to connect to the cloud. The service can be used for video on demand services, live broadcasts or just shifting video files around point-to-point or point-to-multipoint.

Intelsat intends to eventually use IronRoute for other things besides video encoding, such as VoIP or VPN connections.

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