Effective DVB Monitoring

Keeping your subscribers satisfied requires constant vigilance: consistent video quality, the right signals in the right places and speedy fault resolution. To make matters worse, the increasing complexity of digital technologies combined with the growing scarcity of skilled technical staff, has made direct human control and monitoring of far flung transmitter sites quite simply impractical.

At the same time, the growing use of IT-based systems in the broadcast chain – from the newsroom to the antenna tower – means that time now is ripe for a system-wide approach for central control and monitoring. In other words, providing time-strapped operators a multi-site, multi-user system performing real-time integrity monitoring combined with overall control, surveillance and management of the entire broadcast chain.

Early network-based remote control systems, while initially useful for centralized control of many remote sites, do have a number of limitations. More often than not, the remote control reports that at some point during the night, the transmitter shuts down and miraculously returns online minutes or hours later, or perhaps viewers report reception problems. In the absence of proper technical tools, it is not a matter of whether it will happen again, but when it will happen again.

Regardless of the staff size and the technical level of the operators on duty, the proper tools and services must be readily available to troubleshoot and record problems at the entire transmitter site. Yet, a standard transmitter remote control system is not the appropriate tool for performing such diagnostics. As there is much more to the broadcast chain than just the transmitter, diagnosing the problem requires a system-wide approach. Ideally, leverage on an end-to-end management system that conveniently responds to the following questions: did the MPEG-2 transport stream leave the station?  Did it arrive correctly at the site?  Was it a transmitter fault? Was there a failure or overload in the RF path? Did the electrical power or critical backup power system fail? Did other components fail because the HVAC system malfunctioned? Or, could it just have been a faulty interlock switch?   While the TR 101 290 Measurement Guidelines developed by DVB provide exceptional visibility into the numerous and complex problems that can occur with the RF signal or MPEG-2 transport stream, the measurements are fundamentally isolated point-by-point measurements.    Finding the root cause of faults and alarms requires multiple DVB measurements to be collected, consolidated and analyzed, and must be brought to the attention of operators in a timely manner. The significance is important: between knowing and guessing, fixing and hypothesizing, sleeping at night and taking a ride to the transmitter building.    Secondly, guaranteeing end-to-end broadcast integrity also requires independent monitoring of transmission and MPEG data integrity. This is especially true within an SFN (single frequency network), which relies on complex timing information within the MPEG stream to synchronize each transmitter – again, tying in the DVB SFN performance metrics across your entire region.   Bottom Line: Better Value & Return   Today’s economic climate completely rules out complex NMS platforms frequently   costing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rather, a compact yet robust monitoring solution allowing for more efficient use of time and resources provides the foremost return on investment.  Generate aggregated network performance data from multiple remote monitoring probes: Check. Single-screen overview of the entire broadcast network: Check. RF signal health, transport stream, content and integrity, alarm logs: Check.   Simple.  Effective.  Affordable.