The state of interference

by Staff Reporter | March 5th, 2012

Martin Coleman, executive director, SiRG

With London 2012 just around the corner, Martin Coleman, director, Colem and executive director, Satellite Interference Reduction Group (sIRG), looks at progress the industry has made in adopting Carrier ID, an embedded code to track cause of interference.

We have for a long time been talking about the ever-present problem of satellite interference. It is the bugbear of the entire industry, with feeds continually being interrupted and service lost due to this issue. At the Satellite Interference Reduction Group (sIRG), we have been focusing our effort on Carrier ID and, specifically, getting it adopted across the industry in time for London 2012. Of course, 2012 is now upon us and with the Olympics just around the corner, how close are we to achieving that goal?

What has been done?

Carrier ID is essentially an embedded code that means operators can simply and quickly track the cause of interference. However, for Carrier ID to work, we need the support of the entire industry, and that means modem and encoder manufacturers, satellite operators, and broadcasters, and crucially all uplinkers across the globe.

With this in mind, sIRG has been campaigning hard on a global scale to bring all of these companies on board with our initiatives. We attended a number of key events throughout 2011, with conferences and speaking slots at many of these, enabling us to talk to the industry about the problem, and crucially, the solutions. In the short term, we have been very much focused on Carrier ID, but we are also working on a number of other initiatives, all aimed at significantly reducing interference.

But for now, we are focusing the majority of our effort on Carrier ID and getting the industry on board in time for the Olympics.

So, where are we up to?

We have achieved a great deal over the last year, with a number of crucial announcements getting us that bit closer to our goal. After many months of campaigning and talking to the industry, IBC was the turning point. Firstly, Eutelsat announced that from 30 June 2012, Carrier ID will be integrated into transmission parameters for SNG transmissions and new DVB broadcasts for all Eutelsat customers. Secondly, a number of leading modem manufacturers agreed to work together to formalise a standard for the insertion of new Carrier ID technology within the DVB specification. That is currently with the DVB and will make a huge difference to Carrier ID as and when approved, as this new technology contains the Carrier ID information within a separate carrier. This means that it is visible to operators, without the need to interrupt the main feed, saving valuable airtime for broadcasters.

This is something particularly beneficial for live broadcasts, where any interruption to the feed will of course have an immediate effect for the consumer watching at home. However, it will unfortunately not be formalised in time for the Olympics, so although we aim to get the industry to move that way in the long-term, in the short-term we will be focusing on establishing the existing network information table (NIT) Carrier ID technology for London 2012. Even the existing NIT technology can make a considerable difference, as it enables interference to be stopped quickly and efficiently, and significantly reduces interruptions.

Manufacturers

We have been talking to many of the leading modem and encoder manufacturers and as mentioned above, a number of modem manufacturers all worked together to back the new Carrier ID technology, which was developed by Comtech EF Data, and is currently being reviewed by the DVB. Both Comtech EF Data and Newtec have in the interim added NIT CID to all their modulators and both companies are strongly supporting the new technology.

As for encoders, we know that a number of leading manufacturers have included Carrier ID in all products, either as standard or as a free firmware upgrade. The ones we are aware of include Ericsson, NTT, IDC, and Vislink, but I am certain other manufacturers may have also included it and I’m working to determine others so we can mention them on our new website later this year.

Satellite operators

The satellite operators are on the whole very much on board with Carrier ID. They are of course at the sharp end, dealing with interference as and when it happens and striving to keep their customers happy, and as interference-free as possible.

The announcement from Eutelsat was a turning point, but we are working closely with many of the leading operators, including Intelsat, SES, Inmarsat, and ArabSat, all of whom are striving to have Carrier ID across their networks in time for the Olympics.

Broadcasters

For broadcasters, the landscape is much more complicated, as there are so many of them across the world. For a relatively small broadcaster, the task of ensuring Carrier ID across their operations can seem insurmountable. However, as we have discussed, many of the modem and encoder manufacturers already include Carrier ID, so the chances are, that most are capable of Carrier ID already!

The current state of play is that some broadcasters are already using a version of Carrier ID, such as Turner Broadcasting. We have been working with the other organisations to combat the problem of interference. One such group is the Radio Frequency Interference – End Users Initiative (RFI-EUI), which has a strong focus on the broadcaster community, and its members have agreed to work towards the use of Carrier ID for Olympics. There are many more broadcasters however who are not yet employing Carrier ID, although all they need to do really is “flick a switch” to make it happen. sIRG and other likeminded and passionate organisations, such as WBU-ISOG, GVF, and RFI-EUI are working to better educate the industry about the advantages of Carrier ID in mitigating interference as they get on board.

Global reach

Another key to getting Carrier ID to work throughout the industry is ensuring it is established throughout the world. We are having a great deal of success in Europe and USA, as well as in the Middle East, where we have good support from both ArabSat and YahSat, as well as Eutelsat and SES, who both operate in that region.

However, we have not reached out to our industry colleagues in Russia, China, and India. That said, we are starting to work with the Ukraine and are hoping to host a sIRG conference there later this year, in order to really get the message out about what we are trying to achieve and what’s possible.

The next [few] steps

We have laid a lot of ground-work over the years and the technology is out there to embed Carrier ID. The Space Data Association (SDA) is working towards establishing exactly what is needed in a Carrier ID database, where the Carrier ID code recovered from a carrier can be used to identify the satellite operator(s) upon whose satellites the carrier is authorised to operate.  Thus, the responsible satellite operator can quickly identify and contact the responsible Uplinker and address any interference quickly and efficiently while maintaining the integrity of proprietary data such as name and location.

The SDA is discussing requirements for the database with its member industry experts and its technical partner.  The final SDA database is expected to be ready later in 2012, and in order to support the London Olympics, the SDA is working with its industry partners to host an initial version as a proof of concept.

Now it is up to us all as an industry to make NIT CID happen in time for the Olympics for a number of reasons. Firstly, such a high profile event deserves our attention to ensure viewers at home are not affected by interference during those pivotal moments. Secondly, the Olympics will provide us with a perfect test bed, enabling us to demonstrate proof of concept, and at the same time iron out any operational bugs, getting the initial systems in place to make global CID possible in the near future!

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