Radio magazine is in the midst of a series of short question sessions with authors of the 11th edition of the NAB Engineering handbook. Greg Ogonowski is a well-known name in our field, and composed Chapter 7.3 “Internet Radio interfacing and Streaming.”
Radio Magazine: As more and more companies get in the business of providing broadband internet access, will providers of streaming media change parameters of their offerings? In other words, will higher data rates, and less reliance on lossy compression methods become more prevalent?
Greg Ogonowski: There is the thought that low bitrate codecs will become unnecessary as available bandwidth increases with unlimited data plans. However the consumption and demand of bandwidth is growing much faster than providers are able to provide this increased bandwidth. So low bitrate codecs will be necessary for the foreseeable future to insure streaming reliability and provide a positive user experience.
In addition there have been recent audio codec advancements to the AAC family. xHE-AAC offers higher performance over HE-AACv2, providing better Spectral Band Replication (SBR), Parametric Stereo (PS), and low bitrate voice. This offers even higher audio codec efficiencies. Previously, xHE-AAC technology could only be used in devices if manufacturers paid for an additional license in addition to an existing AAC license. xHE-AAC has been brought into the AAC patent pool, and licensees can now access xHE-AAC rights at no additional cost, and reduces average per-unit cost through greater volume aggregation across all AAC related products. Furthermore, xHE-AAC is easier to develop for, since it includes the entire AAC codec family.
RM: In what other ways will streaming media change over the next decade?
GO: There is a trend toward moving away from legacy ICY (SHOUTcast/Icecast) and Flash streaming, for a number of reasons, in favor of true HTTP streaming protocols, such as HLS or MPEG-DASH. Streaming video has already gone this way, abandoning traditional streaming media protocols and servers. This eliminates proprietary Flash security issues, and can now use HTML5 for player clients without any additional plugins. Since the Internet is primarily web-based, in order to leverage HTTP infrastructures such as existing web servers, caches, edge servers, and cloud storage for live streaming, these protocols allow a substantial cost savings in both deployment and administration, while increasing stream reliability. Dedicated streaming server expense and expertise is no longer required.
RM: Greg, let’s read the tea leaves. How long do you think it will be before streaming media is used more than over-the-air broadcasting?
GO: IP multimedia content delivery is no longer the new frontier. It is here now, and available everywhere, including automotive dashboards providing easy to use interfaces for streaming audio. The advantages of streaming over terrestrial radio are many. Almost everyone has a mobile smartphone in their possession today, which means they also have access to high quality streaming media. Streams are not subject to traditional AM and FM radio interference and limited coverage. They are also capable of delivering much better audio quality than AM, FM, and HD radio. There is even thought of abandoning satellite delivery in favor of IP delivery now, to decrease delivery costs there as well.