Boxx wireless hotspot service goes Street-Live17 May 2011
Boxx.tv’s new Street-Live is a network of wireless hotspots that allow broadcasters to stream live pictures for significantly less than the cost of a satellite truck, writes David Fox. It was used for the first time on the Royal Wedding and will be in place for London’s upcoming tennis championships and the Olympics.
"The technology doesn’t have boundaries, so you can do an interview in the stadium, or outside. It is small technology and can be carried around in a backpack. As long as you can see the receiver you can go live," said Scott Walker, Boxx.tv’s co-founder and CTO (pictured).
He believes it will also be important for crews wanting to ftp stories. "For example: you want to go live for the 6-o’clock news with a two minute story that needs to be top and tailed with a live cross. You book a slot between 5.45 and 6.15, ftp a 100MB two-minute story that takes five minutes to go up, and gives you the rest of the booking to top and tail live."
It would be used in conjunction with such systems as Quicklink, Streambox, or Dejero, which most news crews tend to have, "and we provide them with a fast, reliable upload to the internet," he said, with charges typically a fifth the cost of using a satellite truck (or less).
"All these platforms have been designed to work with very bad quality internet, typically in places like Afghanistan or Libya, where the connection would typically be under half a megabit. So when you offer these platforms 10, 15 or 20Mbps, they perform very well." A typical news truck or satellite feed would use 4Mbps or possibly 8Mbps.
A single 5GHz hotspot could cope with two to four broadcasters at once, but the number of crews that can use it at once depends on how much bandwidth they book – although each cell can be expanded to offer more connectivity (so long as Boxx has enough time to arrange it – at least a four-week lead time). "The cell’s the easy part. It’s the connection to the internet that is challenging."
It was used for the first time on the Royal Wedding at Westminster Abbey recently, and will be used at The Queen’s Club in London, during the ATP Aegon Championships tennis tournament from 6th-12th June. Boxx doesn’t have any broadcasters lined up to use the service, as it only signed up the hotspot location last week, but it should enable it to cover a substantial portion of the grounds and outside the front gate (useful for non-rights holders).
"We’re working on Wimbledon [for the tennis] at the moment and hope to have that up in time [from June 20th]."
Boxx has also been asked to set up a location in Leicester Square, where most of London’s movie premieres take place, and is also planning to have other hotspots in place for the London Olympics next year. The technology can cover up to about 10km from a hotspot, so long as they can find a suitably high building.
For the Royal Wedding the system was used by a crew from TV2, Denmark (using Quicklink), and a CBS regional news feed, with a 10Mbps uplink.
Whether the system can be used for links to a mobile camera depends on the location. Generally it will be free to roam if it is close enough (within about 500m depending on the topology), otherwise it will need to use a directional antenna.
Boxx has been working with 5GHz spectrum (for which it makes wireless products) for about five years. "Everything we do is between 5GHz and 6GHz, which is traditionally a frequency our competitors don’t use," he claimed.