Lackness, Tieline VP Sales, Americas. ‘Always ask if your new codec is
Radio World asked several codec suppliers about
trends in their area of expertise and we got back some great information. Here we talk with John Lackness, Tieline vice president of sales for the Americas. This
is one in a series.
How have codecs
changed in recent years?
and therefore revenues are down — so there is a drive to be more profitable and
look for ways to improve the bottom line. Satellite and synchronous links over
transports such as ISDN and the like are costly to run, and more and more
broadcasters are looking at ways to send audio reliably and more affordably
over the public Internet using IP.
is the primary network transport evaluated in many situations, with many codecs
now IP-only. This has primarily been driven by cost imperatives and the
flexibility IP provides. The ability to globally manage IP codecs via
Web-browser control mechanisms over the Internet has extended the reach of engineers
to enable global management of networks from a single point.
direction is codec design heading?
a remotes perspective, there is a bigger focus on delivering more live and
local content cost effectively. Smartphones have revolutionized newsgathering
in particular, to the point where every reporter in a network can now afford to
use an IP codec application to transmit high-fidelity remote audio to the
studio live, or as a recorded report. Entire networks continue to arm every reporter
with a pocket-sized audio codec application to improve the overall quality of
the audio content broadcast.
an audio distribution and STL perspective, the latest designs consolidate much
more powerful capabilities over IP in compact hardware designs. They include
multichannel, multiple unicast and multicast capabilities, as well as
interoperability over multiple transports, including redundant Ethernet
streaming ports in many cases.
still leery of relying on the Internet for mission-critical audio transport?
has been designing and refining IP codecs since 2005 and views IP now as an
established transport with a significant track record of reliability. We have
acquired significant knowledge over the past nine years by refining remote IP
codecs and have added multiple layers of redundancy through SmartStream IP
software to ensure engineers are confident about transporting perfect audio
over imperfect networks like the Internet.
“state of the art” in bitrates and algorithms these days?
is a vast array of algorithms out there and it really depends on the
application and available bandwidth.
high-quality low-delay audio distribution and STLs, the most widely used would
be the AAC range and aptX Enhanced. Also of note is the recent endorsement of
Opus by the IEEE, and this is generating a lot of interest given its
characteristics. The EBU has listed it as an optional algorithm as part of its
Audio Contribution over IP standard for interoperability among codec
manufacturers — so watch this space for more news on Opus in the next few
What role is HD
Voice playing and what other important developments on the network provider
side do we need to know about?
is an interesting one and everything has its place, but it is important to
understand HD Voice has limitations.
it not supported over 2G and requires the 3G network. Second, a number of
broadcasters find it is restrictive because only a select number of cellphone
operators support it; both ends must be on the same network and this has proven
to be a frustrating point for many Europeans where roaming agreements are in
place; i.e. if Operator A supports it but operator B doesn’t, you only get a
standard voice call (Italy is a great example of this).
With the advent of 4G-LTE and its fairly rapid rollout, the contention
issues on 3G IP networks are less evident and the network architecture is
improved to ensure better utilization of available spectrum.
What is the next
big challenge facing codec designers?
What else should
a smart buyer know?
ask if your new codec is IPv4/IPv6-compatible. The IPv6 static IP address
system has been chosen as the successor to the original IPv4 version and will
transition over time to become the new Internet of the future. IPv6 hardware
supports virtually unlimited numbers of public IP addresses, so broadcasters
will be able to avoid complicated network address translation and firewall
routing that is often associated with IPv4 networks.
What is your
newest or most notable codec product?
1RU Merlin rack-mount IP codec is designed to transmit bidirectional
high-fidelity IP audio and full-duplex communications between the studio and a
range of Tieline remote codecs or smartphones using Tieline’s Report-IT
Merlin is capable of two independent mono connections with different
Tieline IP codecs or smartphones using Report-IT, to save money on hardware at
the studio. The codec includes Tieline’s renowned SmartStream IP streaming
management software for ultra-reliable remotes over IP. It also has dual power
supplies and is future-proofed via IPv4/IPv6 compatibility. Merlin is ideal for
studio and remote truck installations.