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Game Changer? AVB Now And In The Future

Where AVB (Audio/Video Bridging) networking is presently at and what it could mean

Why does an industry that already has CobraNet, EtherSound and many more proprietary digital-audi-over-Cat 5 solutions need something else?

Each of these technologies works great, but none has had a true game-changing impact on the professional audio market.

Yet you might have heard about AVB (Audio/Video Bridging), which is a tripod of non-proprietary networking standards.

The basic idea is to empower wired Ethernet to transport “professional quality audio video” – HDTV and multiple channels of uncompressed digital audio – using widely available products like off-the-shelf Ethernet routers and Cat 5 cable.

The two reasons AVB might alter the landscape are a) it’s non-proprietary and b) it is driven by much bigger industries than pro AV. Cisco’s market capitalization is $150 billion, Intel’s $124 billion. Last I looked, the entire pro audio industry was about one-tenth of those figures.

AVB is being defined by an IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 802 Task Group. You may be using one or more IEEE 802 standards right now: wired Ethernet is IEEE 802.3, WiFi is 802.11, WiMax is 802.16 and so on.

AVB includes IEEE 802.1Qav: Forwarding and Queuing for Time-Sensitive Streams, along with 802.1Qat: Stream Reservation Protocol, and 802.1AS: Timing and Synchronization for Time- Sensitive Applications. 802.1Qav was ratified and published in January.

“When combined with the almost-finished 802.1Qat Stream Reservation Protocol,” explains Michael Johas Teener, Chairman of the IEEE AVB Task Group. “IEEE 802.1Qav will be the fundamental toolkit to provide the kind of virtual plumbing needed for professional quality audio/video networking.”

Teener also has a day job: he is Technical Director/Plumbing Architect at Broadcom, which makes “networking and communications ICs for data, voice, and video.”

If you own an Ethernet router, you are probably a Broadcom end user. Broadcom is a founding member of the AVnu Alliance, “an industry forum dedicated to the advancement of professional- quality audio video by promoting the adoption of the IEEE 802.1 Audio/Video Bridging (AVB) standards over various networking link-layers.”

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