Report

Strong signals for bonded cellular in broadcasting

Ven Balakrishnan Ven Balakrishnan

Bonded cellular is the technology of choice for live news broadcast contribution. As cellular connections become more reliable, 5G is introduced and modems become more portable, we see scope for the wider use of bonded cellular technology within sports broadcasting and replacement of satellite.

Our research is based on discussions with broadcasters, satellite and bonded cellular players and distributors from around the world.

Evolution of bonded cellular technology

Bonded cellular combines multiple network bandwidths, including 3G/4G, available Wi-Fi and even satellite, to create a single, reliable connection. In conjunction with encoding algorithms, this technology has the capability to distribute HD video and audio signals with very low latency for live TV broadcast. The use of mobile networks means the technology can be rapidly deployed to any location for live contribution, using equipment that is extremely portable compared to alternatives such as satellite.

As cellular coverage increases and HD and 4K video codecs improve, bonded cellular offers significant cost savings compared with satellite contribution, leading broadcasters across the world to adopt the technology. They typically use one of the four global manufacturers - LiveU, TVU, Dejero or Aviwest - though several local market players also exist.

Sports broadcasting provides growth opportunities

Our interviews suggest bonded cellular technology is currently used in up to 70% of live news broadcasts. While we see scope for further growth in news, sports broadcasting (in particular second tier sports) will be the larger market opportunity. Sports that were previously complex or uneconomic to broadcast, such as in-car motor sport or university sports, can now be distributed easily via the internet, facilitated by bonded cellular.

New trends in broadcast content production and distribution driving uptake

In the near-term, 5G is likely to be restricted to major conurbations and our interviews suggest it could not, as a single point of failure, be used for reliable live broadcast. It is our view that the 5G roll-out will enhance the adoption of bonded cellular technology.

As broadcasters and production houses increasingly move to cloud management and hosting technologies, so bonded cellular manufacturers are providing novel tools for the management of transceivers in the field and for the real-time switching of live video inputs for distribution over IP networks. These tools, along with camera-agnostic functionality, mean that bonded cellular manufacturers are becoming an important component of many broadcasters’ workflows.

Market outlook

We believe that the demonstrable cost and usability advantages over satellite in many cases, should continue to drive the market forward at double-digit growth rates. We expect the improved latency and reliability of 5G to facilitate continued technological improvements, which should in turn open-up further market opportunities and use cases for bonded cellular, such as in education, health and security.

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