In addition to my role at Ericsson, earlier this year I had the honor of taking office as the President of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), a position I will hold until the end of 2018. It is a truly exciting role; SMPTE has worked tirelessly to address the industry’s growth and to provide standards – in concept and practice – to enhance the current and future work of engineers, creatives and professionals. Its work has been highly influential, with the embrace of software-defined networking and media processing, and the rise of a fully connected world illustrating the extraordinary advances we have enabled in the evolution of TV and media.

Another has been the influx of Internet Protocol (IP) into broadcasting, which has become an increasingly prominent trend over the last decade. IP has touched almost every aspect of the creation, processing and delivery of rich media content. In fact, it has gone through a number of experimental phases and while it is not a perfect media transport, the ubiquity of the technology has seen it effectively embedded within tens of billions of devices, as well as IT ecosystems of compute, networking, storage and of particular importance, virtualization. In short, IP is the foundation for a future where many of the more complex IP systems can be simplified and ultimately improved. This will enable enormous transformation for our industry, particularly in terms of flexibility, compatibility and scalability; it will enable production and content delivery providers to reduce time-to-market and benefit from a more agile development environment.

The pathway to an all-IP world

Due to the mission critical, 24×7, real-time nature of broadcasting, industry-specific interfaces and protocols needed to be developed to enable the delivery and routing of signals throughout the broadcast facility. In recent years, due to the pervasiveness of computing in our daily lives, most non-mission critical functions have been supported by data centers using IT infrastructures. The use of broadcast industry-specific interfaces and infrastructures impeded the ability to scale and grow operations efficiently, while the separation of broadcast and IT infrastructures has increased OpEx and inhibited flexibility. The challenge for broadcasters has been to find ways to leverage virtualization and other agile processes in order to compete. With advances in technology, it is now possible for properly designed IP infrastructures to handle the mission critical, real-time broadcasting functions. What has been missing until recently have been the IP-based protocols to specifically address the high quality of service requirements that the broadcast industry requires.

The benefits of an ‘all-IP’ architecture for broadcast are clear:

  • It simplifies operations by enabling common staffing
  • It enables new services to be added dynamically and cost effectively through the virtualization of network and media functions
  • It delivers flexible scaling of services, therefore providing more efficient use of compute/processing resources

Ericsson has been at the forefront of the broadcast industry’s drive to enable the migration from media-specific to standardized ‘all-IP’ interfaces, protocols and infrastructures. Our company is firmly committed to open standards and our efforts in driving the industry towards a common, next generation solution have been in-conjunction with a group of standards development organizations and industry forums, including SMPTE, the Video Services Forum and the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS).

NAB Show 2017: Next-gen interoperability demonstration

The first stages of the new unified vision for ‘all-IP’ has emerged, thanks to multi-vendor work from groups of experts from large and smaller specialist technology providers, broadcasters, and academics. It has been fantastic to see this collaboration between a variety of organizations to solve bigger challenges to ultimately bring innovation and ideas to a place that benefits the wider industry.

The desire to foster interoperability through a unified common approach has enabled the Professional Media over IP standards – SMPTE ST 2110 – a new suite of standards that specify the carriage, synchronization and description of the spate elementary essence streams over IP for the purpose of live production, content exchange and primary distribution.

During last month’s NAB Show, eight industry organizations – including the four founders of the Joint Task Force on Network Media (SMPTE, VSF, Advanced Media Workflow Association and the European Broadcasting Union) – showcased this work during a massive interoperability demonstration at the ‘IP Showcase’, with a smaller version accommodated at the Ericsson booth.  As the industry closes in on unifying standards for real-time uncompressed video, audio and data over IP, we have a unique opportunity to work collaboratively on the latest advances in IP technology, and to understand how we can maximize value through more flexible, efficient and more creative solutions – ultimately transforming the television experience.

By Matthew Goldman, SVP Technology, TV & Media, Ericsson

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