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Review: Teradek Link Pro Backpack and Core

Teradek's Link Pro Backpack offers enhanced MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) cellular connectivity, plus the reliability of bonded cellular, connected to Teradek's powerful Link WiFi Access Point, and all rolled together in a backpack powered by your choice of V-Lock or 3-stud battery.

The Core

Core is an online, paid service where you can stream to multiple platforms, archive in the cloud, send streams to decoders—even behind firewalls—for point-to-point streaming, and Core is the destination for the bonded connections across multiple internet connections. It’s even integrated with Teradek’s Live:Air software, which I reviewed previously.

I’m not going to say it was all peaches and cream. I’m pretty savvy with computers, and streaming, but it still took me a bit to get everything up and running from my tablet, through Link, through Core, to my destinations. Thankfully, Core has a bevy of videos that seemed to
keep popping up right in front of me. Once I stopped randomly clicking around and watched them, setup progressed much faster. I will say that on my desktop, Core required the browser to refresh the page before my source showed up.

In the video that accompanies this article, I also show some of my testing to get streams running from iPad, through Link and Core, to Facebook. So there’s a lot to get set up and in place initially, which is what I was doing. But after things are set up, registered, grouped, and planned out, I can see how this can make things a lot easier than doing it manually each time you need to stream.

I was able to start a “Sputnik” to reassemble the bonded video into a coherent stream within Core. I connected the Link to the internet through the bonded cellular, and logged in to my Core account linking the two devices (Figure 3, below). Then I connected my iPad running Live:Air Action to the Link, and, instead of sending a stream to Facebook or YouTube, I logged in to Core again, linking the three parts.

Figure 3. Logging into Core

In the Core dashboard on my desktop, I logged in to both Facebook and YouTube. You can also do Livestream, IBM Cloud Video (formerly Ustream), Wowza, or pretty much any RTMP destination you want (Figure 4, below). I also created a single Group with those two destinations, and you can create multiple groups with any subset of destinations you want.

Figure 4. Streaming destination options

For instance, if you have a camera crew with a streaming camcorder covering several different sporting events over a weekend—Football Friday night, soccer Saturday morning, followed by field hockey, and then basketball Saturday night... and you want each event streamed to a
different set of Facebook, YouTube, and dedicated college pages, you can log in to each of the appropriate pages for each sport, and create a Group for that event (Figure 5, below). Selecting the team’s name (group) will deliver that video to all the appropriate pages.

Figure 5. A streaming group in Core

Bonding

The key benefit to the Link Pro Backpack is its ability to be at a stadium, in the midst of thousands of spectators, and still be able to get a stream through. If you have the ability to plug in a dedicated ethernet cable with enough QoS carved out for the video upstream, then bonded cellular isn’t an issue, but failover to cellular in case the hardline speed drops can save the broadcast.

Link can do wired, wireless, and you can add your own USB modems if you're not using Teradek’s own Node modems (Figure 6, below). Having all the options in one backpack makes it easy to tote around and where there's a wire, you can use it. Then, for broadcasting field hockey from the sidelines where there is no wire, cellular carries the load.

Figure 6. More modems added

Either way, the backend remains the same, and the person running the camera can redirect the streams with the Core app on your mobile device, or another person can oversee multiple camera crews broadcasting multiple events, to a multitude of destinations, from their desktop computer wherever they are.

One caveat, though. When streaming I wanted to download some media from my Dropbox to my connected iPad. That's when I realized that my iPad’s connection through the Link was purpose-built to get video from me, to Core. It’s not a general-purpose WiFi hotspot. It can be, but then, you’re not leveraging the functionality of what Core has to offer.

When I got it all set up and running, I was able to click “Stream” in Live:Air Action and it started to push the content to Core. In Core, I was able to see the stream coming in and activate the destinations. I didn’t see any feedback in Live:Air from Core as to stream health, so that would be a welcome addition—especially when the client says the video is choppy and looks at you. Showing them 0 dropped frames arriving at Core means the dropped frames are their download, not my upload.

Conclusion

It looks like the Link Pro Backpack is purposefully designed to serve those that need a very portable, light, easy-to-manage, battery-operated, wireless, video streaming and bonding solution. I see it fitting into the middle market for streamers who need the functionality of Core
in addition to bonded internet. This 1-2 punch provides a nice solution for those getting very busy with many streaming events, but don’t yet have their own dedicated production truck, and have really outgrown a single mobile hotspot solution.

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