News Gathering:The Fourth Generation

recent evening newscast, staffers
at the Sinclair Broadcasting
Groups’ Fox affiliate WZTV Nashville
learned that a police car had been involved
in a head-on collision. It was the
kind of story they needed to get on the air
before the end of the program, but that
night, the station did not have a microwave
or satellite truck available.

In the past, that would have meant
reporting the story without video, or
relying on poor-quality video sent back
from a smartphone. Thanks to the availability
of a good 4G wireless connection,
however, WZTV was able to get a
reporter and cameraman to the scene to
quickly send high-quality video wirelessly
over the Verizon 4G network to
the studio using Streambox’s Avenir mobile
encoding product.

“It is a very fast and efficient way to
work,” says Bob Shrader, chief news photographer
at WZTV. “You can be up and
transmitting with this thing in less time
than it takes to get the mast up on a satellite

Wireless carriers began major deployments
of 4G, or fourth-generation cellular
networks, last year, and the major
carriers have announced plans to cover
most of the country by 2013 with very
high-speed 4G services. Verizon, for example,
began rolling out its 4G network
to 38 markets reaching about 100 million
American homes in December 2010;
national coverage is expected within
three years.

Speeds vary, but at the Consumer Electronics
Show earlier this month, Verizon
streamed 3D content at 18 megabits per
second (Mbps) over its 4G LTE network.
In general, the carrier is promising 5 to
12 Mbps downloads and 2 to 5 Mbps
uplinks for its 4G service to consumers.
Several vendors, including Nomad Innovations
and Streambox, have already
developed products that deliver video
over 4G networks. These products are
likely to see significant enhancements
over the next year.

One major impact will be on the usage
of microwave and satellite trucks, which
have been an integral part of the local
TV news business for decades but are
much more expensive than the newer
4G technologies.

“We have a solution that offers more
than a 75% savings on the capital and
operating expense of microwave and satellite
technology,” says Bob Klingle, CEO
of Nomad Innovations, which is selling a
LiveEdge 4G product.

Speed, ease of use and the ability to
create more content at less cost for multiple
platforms are also major advantages,
says Bob Hildeman, chairman and CEO
of Streambox. “This acquisition engine
will allow [broadcasters] to bring in a lot
more content for less cost, and that will
allow them to go to multiplatform delivery,”
Hildeman says.

In recent equipment tests in Seattle,
Streambox was able to transmit live or
stored broadcast-quality standard-definition
video at 1.5 to 2 Mbps and HD video
at 2 to 5 Mbps, according to Hildeman.

Del Parks, VP of engineering and operations
at the Sinclair Broadcast Group,
notes his stations are already using the
Streambox devices over 3G and 4G networks
in markets such as Nashville and
Baltimore to send standard-definition
footage. Sinclair plans to deploy the boxes
more widely to other stations this year.

Sinclair’s enthusiastic embrace of the
technology aside, Parks stresses that “this
is not a replacement for a live truck.”

Many rural areas, he notes, have poor
cell reception; on high-profile stories,
stations can’t take the chance of not being
able to send back video if the 4G network
is flooded with calls.

“You can get to the scene first with
Streambox, but if you are covering a hostage
situation or something like that for
hours, we will want to send a live truck,”
Parks says.

But WZTV’s Shrader believes the
technology is ready for primetime as a
supplement to the station’s trucks “You
do have a learning curve, but I wouldn’t
wait for 4G to improve,” he says. “I’d
jump on it. It is much faster and more
efficient than rolling a live truck.”

E-mail comments to