Broadcasting By Cell: Is It Really Worth It?

When quality counts, satellite is still king.

Broadcasting By Cell: Is It Really Worth It?

Can  broadcast news  be any more saturated with political stories?  The last months have challenged broadcasters to cover the movements of a record number of presidential candidates.  In the past, numerous satellite trucks would be deployed to rallies, stump speeches and debates. Then broadcasters started combining their resources in the form of pools or mini pools.  These pools would cover the stories for two or three networks.  

Over time, new technology came on the scene, and stories were broadcasted from the field using bonded cellular service.  Basically, the signal is transmitted using multiple cellular cards.  This marked a real change in the industry.  Satellite trucks are now not needed as frequently.  Reporters can broadcast on the move in vehicles or moving down the street as necessary during events like riots or protests.  

Using cellular technology, however, has its limitations. Signals break up and freeze due to bandwidth constraints.  Often the stories are actually events where hoards of people are congregating.  People equal cell phone users.  Since voice is king on cellular networks, bandwidth is allocated to handle the influx of users, leaving precious few resources for the video (data) traffic.  

Unfortunately, cost cutting and "the get" take priority over quality.  The dictum "any signal is better than no signal" comes into play.  The paradox is that while television networks spent millions on high quality HD delivery, they take subpar footage to air just to get the story.  To be fair, competition drives this:  everyone is racing to get the story.  Still, it's unfortunate when, right in the middle of a report or mid-sentence during an important speech, the signal freezes, and the story is lost. 

When it really counts -- for the Superbowl for example -- satellite trucks are always called.   A satellite truck is nearly fail proof, and the quality of picture consistent.  The message is clear.  When something is really important and has to get out, an uplink is still the way to go.  People like to say that satellite's day is limited as more cellular systems come online, but satellite uplinking is here to stay.  When quality counts, satellite is still king.