Anil Bhardwaj,Regional Sales Manager-South Asia, GatesAir

As more broadcasters shift from legacy TDM (E1/T1) connections to IP networks, broadcasters are seeking more efficient ways to manage bandwidth and analyze network performance. At the same time, cost reduction as it relates to engineering, labor, and maintenance remains a concern, while at the same time taking advantage of modern network architectures to introduce new on-air services.

New software-defined applications coming to market are helping customers better understand how their IP networks handle data traffic, especially as new services are added to the network. The challenge is to give users enhanced visibility into network performance through advanced network analytics, monitoring, and troubleshooting capabilities.

At the top of the list is graphical analysis of both real-time and historical network performance data, as well as the monitoring of audio streams' status changes and optional email notification capability. In addition, report-generation capability is a benefit when it comes to deeper analysis of the selected network performance data. Such detailed reporting can also offer recommendations for the best error-protection technique of the installed codecs. One example might be a burst-packet-loss model to evaluate IP traffic performance, and provide statistics around round-trip data packet delay. The information gathered from burst-packet-loss modeling can help the operator determine the best methods for fixing lost or missing packets.

Along with real-time graphing, past snapshots can help operators how the stream behaved over a period of time. If the codec was compromised within a certain defined window of time, the user can access that portion of the real-time graph to see if the IP network caused the issue. A summary details network packet statistics with recommendations on how much forward error correction and time diversity is needed for the stream. GatesAir offers its Intraplex LiveLook software to help broadcasters better understand network performance, and overcome the challenges associated with moving signals over IP networks.

New Codec, New Opportunities

In moving radio program signals over IP networks, reliable, secure, and flexible codecs are naturally the most important traits. When it comes to flexibility, new advanced innovations are coming to market that address all of these concerns, and open opportunities for new services transported over the network.

FM MPX transport has been one scenario where flexible solutions have been in short order. While those with very wide bandwidth capabilities have been able to transition to AES 192 digital FM MPX signal transport, many do not quite have the bandwidth – or digital exciters – to accommodate AES 192. And, even when a digital exciter is added, the available bandwidth may fall short of accommodating AES 192 and still require analog transport

The new Intraplex IP Link MPXp codec aims to solve these challenges as the first FM MPX IP codec to support – separately or together – AES 192 digital and analog composite signals over a secure and reliable digital IP path. It also leverages built-in bandwidth reduction technology and signal parameter selection to help broadcasters transport uncompressed AES 192 signals as low as 1.8 Mbps – a more than 50 percent reduction in bandwidth utilization compared to most codecs on the market. This exceptional bandwidth efficiency opens more headroom for increased packet protection, as well as additional audio and data services.

As mentioned, there is a strong value proposition as a feature-rich, future-proof codec to support analog composite transport today – and AES 192 composite transport when the broadcaster upgrades from an analog to a digital exciter. However, this codec's flexible dual-domain capability allows the broadcaster to install a newer audio processor supporting AES 192 and have it interoperate with an exciter that supports only analog composite signal interface today. This not only provides a transitional path for a digital exciter upgrade, but also enhances signal quality by keeping it in the digital domain across the IP path.

As wide-area network pipes grow larger and IP transport grows more robust, more broadcasters are moving their contribution and distribution services to the network. Investing in flexible and secure codecs along with software-defined network analysis can help broadcasters protect their investments and comfortably bring new services into the broadcast operation.