A Curious Pair: Skype & Traditional Broadcasters

As Skype has become more and more popular various other parties have tried to ride on their coat-tails, including old media companies like TV stations & broadcast networks. I know of at least one TV station that was clandestinely using Skype over broadband to “phone in” breaking news events. The station in question even went so far as to promote the fact that they were using Skype. They did so without prior permission from Skype, and were eventually asked to stop doing so by Skype’s lawyers.

TV stations have been doing “Live Remotes” for decades. Most often this involved using a vehicle equipped with microwave relay gear to send the video feed back to the station in real-time. Much effort goes into ensuring that the video signal looks good when it finally hits air. Larger TV stations or more important projects might merit the use of satellite transponder time to get the video feed back to the station via a satellite link, at considerable expense.

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Telepresence In The Home: Who’s On First?

Cisco today introduced umi, it’s effort to bring telepresence from the board room into the living rooms of the world. Umi (pronounced like “you me”) attaches to an existing HDTV via an HDMI connection and is said to support HD video calling.

Depending upon your available bandwidth umi can provide 720p or 1080i video streams. They quote 720p as requiring 1.5 mbps in each direction, while 1080 requires 3.5 mbps. Those numbers suggest the umi is not supporting the H.264 High Profile compression profile that Polycom has used on their systems. H.264 High Profile makes more efficient use of bandwidth, according to Polycom it’s bandwidth requirements are as little as half that of competitive systems.

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