Video Streaming over Skycasters Satellite Internet

I received an email from a colleague this morning, with a seemingly innocuous question.

“How is satellite for streaming applications (e.g. ESPN 360, etc.)?”

As I wrote the answer, I thought that this would be a good topic for a blog.

Strictly from a technical / “does it work” perspective, streaming video works fine over Skycasters’ satellite service. Although I have not tried espn360.com specifically, I don’t see a technical reason why it would not work.


In fact, many of our clients use our products for streaming on the upload side – where the satellite dish is at the event location, and used to transmit the video. Technically, it is more challenging to stream an upload at a consistent 768 or 896 than it is to download at similar rates (due to transmit dish size and BUC output power). We recently supported the live streaming webcast of the Dedication Day Gettysburg Address Reenactment that was broadcast using Skycasters gear as the upload stream source. Very trick. (For more information, see http://www.skycasters.com/satellite-internet-articles/archives/2009/11202009-PowerStream.php)

So, technically, not a problem. But streaming is bandwidth / throughput intensive. Depending on the size of the stream, the costs range from $35-70 per hour on the low side, and could double or triple that for an HD stream. Some of our larger service plans allow for up to 4.5 mbps download. If that data rate is pegged at that rate to accommodate an HD stream (rather than the normal, intermittent “bursty” traffic patterns typically seen with TCP traffic) you can move 2 GB per hour. At $0.10/Meg, that’s $200/hour for that HD stream.

These costs are not a problem if the stream is a “for profit” venture.  The costs are known, understood, and built into the cost of the production.  For example, a client might say, “We’re going to stream this motorcycle race. It’s a 2-hour event. At our bit rate it will cost us $60 per hour, so we build $120 into our event budget.” No problem. (Video streaming over IP works out to be a bargain, actually, compared to traditional broadcast satellite time).

But the costs can be a problem if not anticipated (or not business justified). For example, the guys on an oil rig decide to stream the World Series for entertainment. Including the pregame analysis and post-game wrap up. Five hours of HD streaming for 7 nights creates a lot of unanticipated usage.

The long and short of it is, as long as the person streaming is willing and able to pay the bill, our network will happily accommodate it. In fact, our network is one of the few satellite IP networks that *can* accommodate video streaming – which is why many video production companies use Skycasters exclusively. From red carpet galas, to sending back the day’s filming to the editors in Hollywood, we do this a lot.  Next spring we are deploying with a military training exercise to simultaneously stream from various observation posts back to the command center, all on the Skycasters network.

I really enjoy this industry. We get involved in some very exciting projects and we use technology to enable some wonderful events like the Gettysburg Reenactment.

Until next time.

All the best,

-Mike

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