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SRT: Making The Internet Ready For Video Primetime

The continuous growth in penetration and increased bandwidth capacity of unmanaged Internet networks has unlocked the possibilities of delivering broadcast quality live video over the Internet. The Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) protocol is presently the media industry’s favored open standard solution for Internet video transport. However, until now, available SRT solutions have had limitations in terms of capacity, density, and flexibility, hindering the take-up of SRT in professional video environments.

SRT was developed by Haivision as a protocol for the transport of broadcast quality video over unpredictable networks, such as the public Internet. It became a royalty-free, open-source technology in 2017, and is developed and maintained by the SRT Alliance, which now has over 600 members.

The key advantages of SRT over other video transport protocols are that it:

  • Enables broadcast quality video to be transported over inexpensive unmanaged Internet networks – potentially replacing leased-circuits and satellite transport
  • Provides end-to-end AES 128/256-bit encryption
  • Protects against packet loss at low latency through deploying advanced re-transmission techniques
  • Easily traverses firewalls.

The above advantages of SRT have seen it become, in just six years, the de facto standard for transport of video over lossy networks, taking the crown from RTMP, which by 2020 was facing dwindling support from industry solution providers and broadcasters alike. 

Aligning Transport Costs With Content Value

At Appear, we realized that although the SRT protocol was ready for primetime, the sort of solutions that professional media and entertainment companies need to make the most of the protocol and public internet video transport were not yet on the market. This should not be too much of a surprise, the rise of SRT has been meteoric, moving very quickly from code on a GitHub repository to being the no. 1 choice for how to transport broadcast quality video over the public internet.

The real difference that SRT has enabled is in the exponential growth in the potential use cases for transporting video over the public internet. We’re talking to customers right now that are looking at using SRT to transport large groups of live channels over the public internet using SRT. It’s not that long since the only solution for this would have been satellite, with all it’s associated cost. A decade or so ago leased circuits would have been the only alternative. Now, thanks to SRT, it is possible to slash channel bouquet transport costs by using the public internet – something unimaginable even three years ago.

Hardware-acceleration Of SRT

SRT solutions have historically been provided through servers. This approach to SRT transport was OK if you’re moving one channel or covering a live sporting event with a small number of cameras. However, due to the cost-savings of the public internet and the simplicity of operation of SRT, the potential use cases for the SRT protocol widened. It became apparent to Appear that media and entertainment companies needed SRT support in robust, high-density, flexible carrier-grade solutions that interoperate with existing broadcast workflows.

To facilitate these advanced use cases, Appear developed, and recently announced the NAB Show 2023 launch of its hardware-accelerated SRT solutions for the X Platform.

The Appear X Platform SRT Difference

Hardware accelerated SRT enables cost-effective internet connections to make serious OPEX savings. For example, in contribution, today’s existing SRT gateways can only support HEVC with a limited number of cameras before having to add more servers, while one SRT-enabled Appear X Platform unit can support up to 22 UHD camera feeds. 

In distribution, Appear’s SRT solution provides the lowest cost for channel transmission over the public internet, enabling operators to confidently replace expensive satellite links and dedicated fiber circuits. Additionally, SRT empowers operators to reduce the transport budget of moving studio functionality such as media asset management to the cloud. In a single 1RU chassis, Appear’s X Platform as an SRT gateway can handle more than 192 SRT connections and 18 Gbit/s throughput, saving space and power consumption at a much lower cost base. SRT also enables organizations to change the economics of migration to the cloud in their favor.

“Today’s Internet video transport server-based SRT solutions are simply not optimized for primetime; the Appear launch of hardware acceleration for SRT changes that forever,” said Thomas Lind, Director Product Management, Appear.

Unparalleled Efficiency And Density

At Appear we expect long-tail content to rapidly move to SRT, while some higher value content will be transported using SRT alongside existing traditional transport links when it makes sense. Critically, Appear’s launch of a high-density SRT solution enables media & entertainment organizations to at last be able to align video transport costs with content value.

“Media and entertainment organizations face a conundrum: consumers expect more and more choice, while transporting long-tail video presently has a similar cost-base to that of high-value content, our implementation of SRT solves this,” says Thomas Bostrøm Jørgensen, CEO, Appear.

We believe that SRT and the public internet really will be the first protocol media and entertainment companies reach for when transporting video. Will it be the only choice: of course not. If you’re transporting incredibly high value content such as the Super Bowl, then this content is so valuable that moving from say ‘four 9’s’ reliability to ‘five 9’s’ is worth the large extra expense of deploying satellite or leased circuit transport.

Thomas Lind, Director Product Management, Appear.

Thomas Lind, Director Product Management, Appear.

Setting The Industry Standard

Of course, there’s always another protocol being developed to take over, if today’s de facto standard, SRT, doesn’t continue to offer what the industry needs. At Appear we provide high-quality solutions that enable many of the world’s leading media and entertainment organizations to do whatever it takes to efficiently transport high-quality video and at the same time provide the flexibility to monetize content in whatever way they chose. We will continue to explore and be ready to productize the next new developments the industry needs, even before it knows what it needs.

Unfortunately, we can’t claim to have either a perfect crystal ball, or infallible 20/20 future vision, but what we are certain of is that, unless you’re covering the Super Bowl, for almost every other video transport use case, the cost-advantages of SRT and the public Internet will be increasingly hard to ignore. Thanks to the significant benefits of optimization and hardware acceleration, SRT will continue to evolve to enable the public Internet to be used in ways that simply would never have been thought possible by broadcast professionals just ten years ago.