Super Bowl LIV - Betting On Big Game Bandwidth?

Video compression, bonded cellular technology and cellular networks have evolved to the level that giant planned events like the Super Bowl no longer challenge cellular service adequacy.

‘Technology Keeps Up with Market’ isn’t much of a headline but it took more than a decade to get to this point. Super Bowl LIV in Miami promises to be a venue where tens of thousands of cellular customers may steam and post HD and 4K smartphone video simultaneously, including the broadcast media. Few will experience cellular network issues.

The Macintosh was launched with a Super Bowl XVIII TV ad.

The Macintosh was launched with a Super Bowl XVIII TV ad.

You couldn’t say that about Super Bowl XLIV, also in Miami a decade ago. State-of-the-art in 2010 was the VGA-resolution iPhone 3GS and Apple had just rolled out HTTP-based adaptive bitrate streaming (ABR). Apple knows the power and significance of the Super Bowl broadcast. The company kicked-off its original 128K Macintosh in a famous Super Bowl XVIII commercial on January 22, 1984.

The Bonded Cellular companies interviewed for this story were rookies at the Super Bowl game a decade ago. They can tell you that live, game-related video data streamed across Miami cellular networks in February 2010 tested the limits of the technology and infrastructure. Today, these companies are behind-the-scenes Super Bowl TV all-stars.

We asked the Bonded Cellular Super Bowl TV veterans what will make Super Bowl LIV better for them and their customers. Jeremy Miller responded for Dejero. Answers from LiveU were provided by Pierre Kawka, Director of Strategic Projects (PK), and Janel Fleming, Director of Sports (JF). Eric Chang, Vice President of Marketing answered for TVU Networks.

What circumstances make Miami different than previous Super Bowl venues?

Dejero: “Network providers go above and beyond to support their mobile infrastructure to deliver unbelievable connectivity for fans. Halftime at last year’s Super Bowl had fans in the stands getting 50 MB/s!”

LiveU (PK): “Each Super Bowl venue presents its own unique set of circumstances in terms of logistics, proximity between sites and connectivity issues. For instance, in Miami, the perimeter ranges from South Beach for parties and NFL Experience at the Miami Beach Convention Center to Hard Rock Stadium for the game.”

TVU: "Our on-site support team arrives well ahead of game day for all Super Bowls to check in with our customers and to prepare for any set up that’s unique to the venue."

TVU users can count on factory support from well ahead of game day until noisy stadium cleanup crews make the last live-shot impossible.

TVU users can count on factory support from well ahead of game day until noisy stadium cleanup crews make the last live-shot impossible.

What Bonded Cellular experiences will be new and different for users at Super Bowl LIV?

Dejero: “This year, users will have access to our latest product, the EnGo 260 mobile transmitter, which reliably delivers exceptional picture quality even in congested bandwidth conditions. We also provide on-site technical support for our customers to ensure they are fully equipped to go live.

LiveU (PK): “Our customers will be using our latest HEVC technology which will allow them to better combat cell congestion in the stadium holding 64,000 fans. Our hardware-based HEVC encoding technology provides longer battery life and delivers the maximum image quality at any bit rate versus software-based HEVC technology. We will also be offering priority sim service, enabling enhanced connectivity.”

TVU: “In addition to the typical support we provide including technical staff on-site and extra equipment such as TVU pack transmitters, we will have available portable TVU Router units which provide up to an additional 200Mbps of supplemental wireless bandwidth. TVU Router is very useful in congested cellular environments such as at or near busy stadiums.”

Will cell providers bring in emergency units to handle increased traffic? Does that always work?

Dejero: “The Super Bowl is a high-profile event, so the carriers are well prepared—increasing the capacity of their networks, in and around the venue, as well as across the city. What has changed though in recent years, is that fans are not just sharing their favourite moments with friends and family on social media, or making calls or checking their email, but also streaming video too. That puts even extra demand on the networks, so that’s why carrier diversity is critical for broadcasters to reliably deliver their live feeds.”

LiveU (JF): “Fortunately for us, the carriers have built out their infrastructure in these newer venues for the average consumer, providing robust LTE/4G and even 5G connectivity. We’re more confident this year than Super Bowls in the past.”

Fleming continued, “That said, we’re supplying AT&T QoS sims in many of our units, which give the traffic riding on their LTE networks priority over the average cell user.  In congested environments, we see the AT&T priority sims being instrumental in enhancing the resiliency of the video stream.  There will also be LiveU Xtenders deployed in certain locations outside the venue, adding additional network interfaces for the unit to bond with.”

TVU: “Yes extra units will be available, and yes the cell infrastructure works. Also, the addition of TVU Router provides extra capacity for broadcasters who really need it or just want the extra peace of mind of having more bandwidth at their disposal.”

What is the back-up plan if/when local cell service speeds slow down?

Dejero: “In addition to providing multi-carrier cellular connectivity services, we are also providing rental options for our award-winning and unique CellSat service—which provides cellular connectivity that’s intelligently blended with Intelsat Ku-band satellite connectivity using our patented Smart Blending Technology—for those that want enhanced reliability. We’re providing carrier diversity and transmission path diversity as extra assurance.”

LiveU (PK): “The AT&T Priority Sim is designed exactly for this type of scenario, positioning clients to connect before second tier and third tier customers.”

TVU: “We have a tremendous amount of experience in understanding how to support our customers at big global events. Miami, for instance, will be our 8th Super Bowl. Our TVU One transmitters use efficient HEVC and patented IS+ technology to deliver excellent video quality at low bandwidth. For customers with extra bandwidth needs, TVU router helps solve this.”

Virtually everyone in this 2019 Super Bowl press area photo was using RF spectrum.

Virtually everyone in this 2019 Super Bowl press area photo was using RF spectrum.

Your plans to assist customers in Miami?

Dejero: “We can provide private Wi-Fi networks, loaners, on-site service, and cellular/satellite hybrid transmission paths. We have a technical account manager on site helping out customers with loaners and the CellSat services."

LiveU (PK): “LiveU will be positioned to offer emergency spare units and dedicated on-site support.”

TVU: “Our customers typically rely just on cellular transmission when using our TVU backpack transmitters. They’ve not needed to use private Wi-Fi networks although we have offered it in the past at large events. Cellular networks are reliable and not having to be tied down to a single location with Wi-Fi networks is a tremendous advantage with reliable cellular packs.”

Unique Super Bowl uses of your solutions and services?

Dejero: “Without a doubt, our GateWay products provide fast, reliable, and secure access to the public Internet and private networks, not just for transporting video for broadcast and public safety purposes, but also providing general-purpose connectivity while operating in the field."

LiveU (JF): “Some customers have deployed our 4K SDI card this year, providing an even higher quality video as well as additional embedded audio channels.”

TVU: “We are continually amazed to see how creative our customers are in leveraging the flexibility of our cellular pack transmitters for live coverage. Our transmitters have been used on boats, buses, motorcycles and even helicopters to transmit live video.”

What makes your solutions different at high-traffic events?

Dejero: “Where we shine is in challenging environments where bandwidth may be limited or networks may be congested such as big events like the Super Bowl. Our EnGo 260 is built with advanced RF design that’s Verizon certified and our unique Smart Blending Technology and hybrid encoding techniques deliver the reliable performance that our customers have come to expect at live events.

LiveU (JF): “LiveU technology is the premiere choice for nearly every major broadcaster and affiliate station across the globe because of its resiliency and innovative solutions. Furthermore, our clients trust our dedicated 24/7 support which is the absolute best in the industry, especially during mega events such as the Super Bowl.”

TVU: “TVU cellular portable transmitters use a combination of HEVC and patented IS+ video transmission technology to ensure reliable HD and 4K picture quality regardless of the wireless transmission environment.  IS+ can transmit full HD or 4K, 10-bit true 60 fps HDR video at sub-second latency even in challenging connection environments such as a moving vehicle or busy stadium."

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