Opening the Walled Garden of Bonded Cellular with SRT: Achieving Interoperability and Operational Efficiency
October 18, 2023

In an age where rapid video content dissemination and live broadcasting are paramount, bonded cellular systems have emerged as the go-to choice for broadcasters looking to deliver breaking news, cover live events, and communicate captivating stories from virtually anywhere across the globe. These systems have redefined the way we connect and transmit content, offering low operating costs and effortless deployment, while rendering other roaming connectivity solutions to niche applications. Yet, amid this technological revolution, one critical aspect has been largely overlooked — interoperability.

Building Vendor Lock-In – A Necessary Evil?
The bonded cellular landscape, unlike many other content exchange video systems, has evolved into a walled garden of proprietary protocols. These siloed systems defy the trend of recent cloud-based solutions that emphasize open integration through containers and APIs. This lack of multi-vendor interoperability poses challenges for broadcasters, limiting content exchange capabilities and operational flexibility. For freelance camera operators, the choice of a bonded cellular system can limit their market reach, potentially excluding a significant portion of potential customers. Moreover, in the event of a partial system outage, the entire network may fail.

Historically, there have been calls for standardization in various live broadcasting solutions to foster interoperability and a more open working environment. However, in some segments these initiatives have fallen short, facing resistance from vendors who see proprietary systems as a commercial advantage. The formation of standardization committees may risk stifling innovation in the name of uniformity.

While standardizing bonding algorithms may not be the panacea for achieving wider interoperability, recent developments in bonded cellular platforms have paved the way for smoother cross-platform workflow integration.


The Rise of SRT
Over the past six years, the open-source Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) protocol has gained immense traction as a mechanism for distributing and exchanging content over IP networks. SRT is aptly named, offering secure connectivity through AES data encryption and robust connection reliability with forward error correction (FEC) and data retransmission capability. Through these tools, SRT ensures that low-latency video data can be transmitted reliably over IP links, including the public internet.

Recognizing the potential of SRT, many bonded cellular vendors have integrated SRT implementations into their platforms. They can now ingest SRT streams into their workflow platforms alongside traditional bonded streams and export SRT streams into 3rd party networks.

Unifying Bonded Cellular Systems with SRT
By embracing the open-source SRT protocol, we can reimagine the bonded cellular system’s topology. While the proprietary bonded cellular protocols remain in place for connectivity across the bonded cellular links, a shift occurs once the content reaches the cloud debonding instance. Here, transmission paths unify around the use of SRT streams for onward connection to broadcasters. This approach eliminates the issues of stream incompatibility and the constraints of walled garden implementations. All streams, regardless of their origin, can be processed within the broadcast workflow through a single tool, whether calling the SRT streams from up-stream devices, or pushing content down-stream into the management platform as appropriate.

This unified workflow paves the way for greater efficiency among production teams. Live content can be acquired from a broader pool of sources, and camera crews gain flexibility to utilize any brand of bonded cellular transmitter available to them. The limitations of vendor lock-in become a thing of the past, allowing the broadcasting industry to leverage the full potential of bonded cellular systems.

Vislink’s Innovative SRT Solutions
Vislink has seamlessly integrated SRT into its product portfolio, delivering operational advantages across diverse applications. From free-roaming camera systems to direct contribution from live events and network distribution solutions, Vislink leverages SRT’s capabilities to optimize workflows.

For example, SRT empowers production teams to seamlessly integrate wireless camera systems into remote production setups. By leveraging SRT connectivity, Vislink enables separation of RF receive infrastructure for the free-roaming cameras from video decoding at the broadcast center. This innovation not only optimizes event production efficiency by reducing on-site personnel but also leverages cost-effective IP connectivity to the max.

Interoperability in bonded cellular systems is no longer an elusive dream. The integration of SRT is revolutionizing the way content is shared and broadcasted, bringing down the walls that have confined the industry. As we continue to embrace the power of open standards to their greatest, broadcasters are poised to achieve greater flexibility, efficiency, and reach in their quest to deliver compelling content to audiences worldwide.