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An Open, Connected Strategy To Futureproof IP Transmission

Media companies face more complex challenges than ever in a fragmented, fast-evolving landscape. Delivering live video across multiple platforms and geographies requires robust and scalable video transport solutions. To meet today’s required scale and unlock further monetization potential, broadcasters need viable and reliable alternatives to satellite and fiber, which are both costly and limiting. Navigating change and embracing new technologies can be daunting – but with the right technology partner and best-in-class solutions and services, media companies can achieve order and peace of mind in a challenging and frequently chaotic ecosystem.

In this article, LTN’s Rick Young, SVP, Global Products, explores how media businesses of all sizes can harness IP-based live video transmission to deliver live video with high reliability (5 9’s), flexibility, and unprecedented scale. The piece will outline how companies can seamlessly migrate from traditional transport mechanisms to an IP-based approach while highlighting the importance of a fully managed, IP multicast network that provides complete visibility and manages many diverse protocols and methodologies. The article will also discuss how IP transport acts as the foundational layer for broadcasters to unlock advanced monetization, customization, and versioning capabilities that align with their evolving needs, today and in the future.

We’re witnessing perhaps the most rapid and exciting shift the media industry has ever seen. Technology advances and fast-evolving consumer behaviors have merged to create a myriad of new opportunities that bring a host of complexities. The near-global ubiquity of broadband and wireless internet and the constantly increasing depth of connected consumer devices have reshaped the status quo of television. The decades-old model of delivering one version of content to a mass audience through traditional broadcast, cable, and direct-to-home satellite channels fails to meet today’s demanding requirements – from commercial and technical perspectives. Media companies must now reach consumers through new and emerging distribution channels, including social media, direct-to-consumer services, free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels, and over-the-top (OTT) platforms.

Increasing demands for global content consumption have put pressure on the professional video transport chain. Satellite and fiber links lack the scale, agility and reach required today. Broadcasters need viable and reliable alternatives to these costly and limiting transport mechanisms. Many media organizations have already migrated to IP-based transmission. Delivering live video across a highly fragmented global media ecosystem requires robust and scalable video transport solutions – and an open, reliable technology strategy.

A New Model To Meet Exploding Demand

Video transport and delivery are under more strain than ever, driven by rapid shifts in content regionalization, technology, regulation and consumer trends. Media owners and operators must reach audiences with tailored and locally relevant and platform specific content. Content customization has never been as crucial as it is today. Content providers need to enable efficient versioning with customization such as captioning, audio translation, subtitling, graphics, and advertising. Many organizations are also deploying cloud-based solutions to automate the creation of multiple channels and live event variants cost-efficiently, adapting content for global markets and cultures.

Delivering tailored content efficiently through traditional transport technology is unfeasible. The cost of satellite bandwidth and required infrastructure limits the number of possible channel variations and puts a cap on content quality . And as increased 5G data capacity provisioning squeezes out spectrum available for broadcasting, the satellite capacity crunch continues. The need for an effective transport alternative to handle accelerated growth in live content consumption couldn’t be more evident.

The Challenges Of Internet Delivery

Technology leaders at media companies have been exploring IP-enabled terrestrial transmission as an effective alternative to satellite for some time now. Internet-based delivery harnessing multicast capabilities is the only alternative that enables an equivalent cost, scale and global reach. Inherent flexibility to route traffic easily from anywhere on the network to any destination without a physical end-to-end path provides substantial benefits and generally favorable costs compared to satellite.

Internet video consumption has surged, in large part, due to the shift toward video-on-demand (VoD) streaming and the convergence of traditional linear and OTT television. The internet is ubiquitously available and is growing worldwide. Over the past few decades, available last-mile internet bandwidth has increased approximately 30% year on year, while its cost per unit has declined around 30% yearly.

However, effective video transport over the internet at scale requires unique thinking and technology invention – reliable and secure live content delivery isn’t something the internet was originally designed to support.

Standard internet routing architecture and protocol only solutions built on top of thousands of internet service provider (ISP) networks don't deliver high reliability and low delay. Traffic aggregation points can become easily overwhelmed, while transit agreements between ISPs are frequently capped in capacity, causing packet delay or loss. Even with transmission control protocol (TCP)-based endpoints to recover lost or missing packets and user datagram protocols (UDP) to reduce packet delay, achieving both highly reliable and fast delivery has been a significant challenge.

The internet’s underlying architecture is unicast, meaning the source location must send multiple copies of the same content — one copy for each destination, to bring a single video feed to multiple endpoints. A unicast infrastructure fundamentally constrains its use for reliable content delivery to multiple destinations. Without the native ability to multicast and send the same packet from one source to multiple receivers, this process becomes inadequate to meet the scale of receivers required in a modern content distribution model.

Fundamental transport issues occur in the middle of the internet and cannot be solved by technology sitting at the edge of a network. To solve these limitations, LTN has developed innovative and patented technology, including LTN Rapid Error Recovery (RER) protocols and LTN dynamic multi-carrier routing (DMR) algorithms and architecture as part of its proprietary IP multicast network. The LTN Network forms the backbone of LTN workflows and services, enabling the delivery of live and real-time video content with < 200ms latency and high reliability (five nines plus). These requirements are non-negotiables for media organizations regarding live and real-time high-value content delivery.

LTN’s DMR architecture automatically routes live customer traffic around congested or delayed carrier paths and creates high availability connectivity by utilizing multiple tier 1 carrier backbones. LTN’s error-correction protocol, LTN RER, runs across the entire LTN Network, enabling rapid loss recovery in 10-20 milliseconds – far quicker than the standard end-to-end recovery that may take hundreds or even thousands of milliseconds. Routing, monitoring and processing intelligence ensure automated decision-making that routes traffic through optimal paths across multiple carriers. LTN’s error recovery protocols and DMR algorithm protect against loss and indefinite delays and provide content providers with SLA assurances.

An Open, Supported, Connected Strategy

A multicast-enabled, low latency, managed IP network provides the foundation for live media workflows at scale. Yet the number of platforms, devices, and protocols for real-time video transmission has surged in recent years, creating significant complexity for content providers. Many media organizations have already adopted an IP-based approach to video transport, but without the right technology and support strategy, they face obstacles and limitations around reliability, quality, and scale.

The middle of the internet is a chaotic environment. Media businesses harnessing widely deployed IP transport protocols such as SRT or RIST at either side of a transmission face many potential roadblocks. Regardless of the protocols and technologies bringing content into and out of an internet transmission network, media companies require a network partner to manage and control the vagaries of the internet and achieve guaranteed reliability and peace of mind.

On their own, ARQ transport protocols like SRT, RIST and Zixi don’t have inherent multicast capabilities. Content providers need the ability to take one feed and automatically deliver it to thousands of destinations. Technology like the LTN Network enables media owners to bring their live video content from one source to multiple endpoints cost-efficiently and reliably. 

The LTN network also improves the reliability of ARQ protocols in the last-mile. All datacenters route through the same global multicast backbone network, so different locations sending or receiving a channel only need to connect to their optimal LTN datacenter and LTN connected carrier. A backup unit, can connect through a diverse local loop to a different LTN datacenter. Lower round-trip time to each location and the ability to selectively connect to any one of our multiple tier-1 ISP carriers allows customers to improve service availability, reliability, and latency, providing more predictable performances to thousands of receivers, at once. .

Metrics between the LTN network and each transmit and receive site are collected continuously, providing visibility into the performance of every link in the transport chain.

LTN’s open and agnostic network strategy reduces complexity in a hybrid media landscape. The shift to IP and its various transport methodologies means media companies now operate in hybrid network environments that are difficult to navigate. Delivering to a traditional cable headend, broadcast station, and a virtual MVPD will likely require different transport protocols. The LTN Network, ensures seamless distribution regardless of first- and last-mile protocols.

Content owners and platform operators need flexibility to leverage various solutions such as third-party encoders, decoders and hardware or software infrastructure that fit their specific requirements. With varying protocols embedded within hardware platforms, businesses want assurances they can acquire content from anywhere and deliver it everywhere. The interoperability and open access to the LTN Network eliminates concerns around proprietary walled gardens, by embracing industry standards like MPEG Transport Stream, SDI, ASI and others while supporting newer protocols such as SRT, Zixi and RIST.

Rick Young, SVP, Head of Global Products, LTN

Rick Young, SVP, Head of Global Products, LTN

Navigate Change And Complexity With Managed IP Transport

The benefits of IP-based video transmission are well-documented – and media companies are adapting their infrastructure daily to meet surging viewer demands. And in parallel to exploding viewer demand, new technology is emerging and evolving quickly.

Media companies need a network partner to help acquire content in any format and deliver it across every format, platform and protocol as required. Amidst increasing complexity, customers should look for technology partners that simultaneously support a full range of transmission methodologies to accommodate their needs and environments while improving manageability, reliability, quality and scalability.

Eliminating complexity while democratizing connectivity is at the core of the LTN Network. With a multicast-enabled, managed and open network, international media organizations of all flavors can scale up content distribution and empower business growth today and in the future.