IP remotes: Instantly Practical

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Image courtesy of Tieline Technology

Image courtesy of Tieline Technology

The way we carry out remote broadcasts hasn't really changed that much over the last 50 years — at least until recently. The introduction of ISDN codecs in the early 1990s was really the only substantial change during that time. If you wanted to do a remote, you either a) got a phone line, or b) used your own semi-private (RPU) radio channel. The equipment has modernized over the years; but the point is that the resource you used was not shared. The phone line was yours and yours alone; you didn't need to worry that there would be another remote going on over it when you went to use it. ISDN is pretty much the same: when you dialed-out on it, and connected, those two B channels are all yours.

Consider the nature of the Public Switched Telephone Network: For many years it was strictly done on a TDM basis. Your DS0 was all yours (at least till you hung up).

Several methods of wireless remotes are available, such as a Comrex Access portable unit with Verizon EVDO card.

Several methods of wireless remotes are available, such as a Comrex Access portable unit with Verizon EVDO card.

But time and technology have moved on. Ethernet became common around radio stations in the early 1990s, and the Internet really came into common use in radio around the mid 1990s. The idea that users would have their own, unshared data connections has become obsolete (even though it is still in common use). Phone lines and ISDN are still frequently used for the execution of remote broadcasts, but the shared-use nature of the Internet is finally making inroads in that particular aspect of broadcasting.

Along with the obvious advantages of using the now-ubiquitous Internet for remotes come certain issues (I hesitate to call them disadvantages) that need to be addressed.

Internet access is everywhere

An APT Worldcast Eclipse built in to a remote kit.

An APT Worldcast Eclipse built in to a remote kit.

As I said, the Internet is ubiquitous; you find it in every office with a computer — and when was the last time you saw an office that didn't have a computer? But in places that we do remotes — whether it's a sports bar, a nightclub or the county fair, common access to the Internet is still fairly new. It's become so easy now. Broadband access is common; you can buy Ethernet switches all around town; and you can buy CAT-5 and an RJ-45 crimper at the local hardware store. This is the obvious advantage to using the public Internet. How many times (in the old days) did you wait to hear back from the telephone company to see if a line could be dropped in to the proposed remote location? Or, if you use RPU, how many times did you find the signal out of the remote site was OK but maybe slightly noisy?

But using the public Internet gets a little more difficult after you get past the fact that it's already there and in place for you. The shared nature of the Internet doesn't easily lend itself to the sort of continuous, high-rate data output that would be easily accommodated by ISDN or a telephone line. When a user receives documents on the Internet — such as a webpage, or a photo — errors in transmission are easily overcome and likely not even noticed. Lost packets, for example, can be retransmitted. Late packets just slow the download a little.

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