I think it’s fair to say that in just a few years, bonded cellular transmission systems have revolutionized live news gathering. If you don’t know, these are battery powered devices which take an uncompressed feed from your news camera, heavily compress it while still retaining acceptable “news” quality, encode it, and then send it back to the station or a central data hub over the internet. How do they get to the internet? Well by using ethernet or Wifi if you’re near a high speed tap, but usually by combining multiple LTE cellular modems.
That last method has changed the news landscape. No longer do stations need to have a $100,000 microwave truck to report from the field. No longer do you have to book a fiber or satellite window for $1000 and ensure that every link in the chain is passing your signal. With bonding systems, you pull up to live news happening anywhere there is a cell signal, and you are on the air in seconds. A miracle.
But the problem now is that every station has multiple units of these systems. And all of the stations, by the nature of news, all gather and want to go live from the same place. The cell towers have limited bandwidth, and everybody is trying to use it at the same time, so two things happen. Either they simply can’t get a signal through, or the quality is so low and has so much lag that it is unusable.
This is where Persistent Systems has been positioning their new product, the MPU5. They establish a wireless data network over much wider areas than say, a Paralinx unit or some equivalent like that. This network is very resistant to interference and obstacles. A transceiver on the camera can then access that network and roam all over a live news scene. The camera is received by another radio, and then this signal can be transmitted back to the station using traditional microwave or satellite links. Essentially it is removing the fiber optic cable that traditionally joins the cameraman to the satellite truck. The other interesting part of their system is that each radio is a two way transceiver of data. The truck could conceivably send pan and tilt signals to a remote camera. A reporter could get an “ethernet signal” while away from the truck.
I get the impression the system was developed from a military predecessor. They told me the everything is built to “mil spec” and you could go SCUBA diving with the radio even. I’m guessing that makes it hard to get a signal though…..😁
Full disclosure: the Persistent Systems folks gave me some booth swag as I was leaving. They did not contact me for this video, and I’ve received no payment for this (or any) of my NAB videos.