Currently, most Indian news broadcasters are functioning on a combination of OB vans and 3G mobile technology. According to industry sources, 3G technology provides a bandwidth of around a maximum of 700 KBPS to one MBPS. Multiple sim data cards are clubbed together in a special 3G unit to stream live footage. It is estimated that compared to that 4G technology would enable a massive bandwidth of up to 2 MBPS.
Says leading Indian news broadcaster NDTV CTO Dinesh Singh: "4G technology would bring in better clarity as compared to OB vans and 3G technology. Currently, we at NDTV are functioning on a 50:50 ratio of OB vans and 3G mobile technology. 4G technology in India will be a welcome advancement."
What gives mobile technology an edge over traditional OB vans, is the cost effectiveness and the convenience it offers. Think about the parking constraints that news broadcasters have to deal with while transmitting live events in a bustling and congested city area through an OB van! With mobile technology, it is a matter of a convenient 'backpack.'
In terms of costs, mobile technology or digital mobile news gathering systems are way less heavy on the pocket as compared to OB vans. Explains Singh: "An OB van would require an investment of around Rs 6 million to Rs 8 million. On the other hand, establishing an infrastructure for mobile technology involves an investment of roughly Rs one million. The difference in costs is quite substantial and hence very attractive."
Apart from establishment costs, OB transmissions require access to satellite uplink bandwidth. This burns another hole in the broadcaster's pocket at an estimated Rs 5 million a year. Whereas, all one needs for 3G or 4G mobile technology is a couple of supportive mobile handsets and a good data packet plan which would cost a meager Rs 5,000- Rs10,000, says one of the broadcasters.
However, all is not hunky-dory as far as using 4G LTE services are concerned. “OB vans offer a success rate of 99.9 per cent as opposed to mobile technology which leaves scope for an error. In a competitive industry like news, there is no tolerance for an error," points out a media observer. “Mobile technology is ideal for news gathering and live streaming, however not entirely dependable."
Network18 CTO Piyush Gupta reasons: "We will all happily welcome 4G technology, if all the telecom providers sort out the loopholes. Many a times, the mobile towers get choked up because of congestion. While OB vans ensure us a dedicated bandwidth, that's not the case with mobile technology."