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Showtime on fibre optics

Jared Heng | Aug. 20, 2008
Television news reporting in the 21st century is highly competitive. Jared Heng reports how one global news provider successfully contracted a leading telco to cut service latency and downtime.

Growing availability of IP-based fibre-optic circuits has presented broadcasting giants such as CNBC, Bloomberg and CNN with more opportunities to beef up service resilience.

In an industry where sending timely information to viewers is critical, CNBC recognised its need to further minimise service latency and downtime. Faced with highly demanding network requirements, the company turned to Macquarie Telecom for a scalable and robust solution.

CNBC's relationship with Macquarie Telecom started in 2003 involving delivery of voice traffic between branch studios worldwide. "Unlike other businesses, we cannot settle for compressed audio traffic, although many telcos offer such services at relatively lower rates," says CNBC's senior vice president for operations, Peter Juno.

He explains that as a broadcaster conducting interviews globally, CNBC requires high quality voice communications, which would not be available with audio compression. "While we want to save on costs, we can't compromise on service quality," Juno says. As Macquarie Telecom met CNBC's needs, collaboration between both organisations continued.

Gaining from the bust

The TV network benefited from the dot-com bust during the turn of this century. "Many operators rolled out fibre optic circuits worldwide during the dot-com bubble," Juno says. "When the bubble burst, there was suddenly much unused circuit capacity worldwide and those operators were trying to recover their ROI [return on investment]."

Seizing this opportunity, CNBC put out a request for a proposal for the supply of video services over fibre optics. The broadcaster's New York and London studios would then deliver live and recorded videos to the company's Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore, for re-distribution throughout the region.

However, Juno notes that fibre optics is "neither viable nor economical" for CNBC where broadcasting programmes to multiple customers is concerned. "For example, delivering programmes out of Singapore to 40 million households in the Asia-Pacific through fibre optics is very costly."

In such cases, CNBC provides broadcasting services using satellites, which Juno says is more economical.

Planet-wide services

CNBC uses fibre-optic circuits to deliver services from one branch studio to another worldwide.

"Fibre optics saves us more cost than using satellites for such point-to-point data delivery," Juno says. "The latency from delivering video through fibre optics is less than through satellites, and avoids the terrestrial interference you get with satellites."

In Asia, terrestrial interference to satellite signals mainly come from heavy rains and 'rogue radars' such as passing ships. "Rogue radar is a key issue especially in major shipping hubs like Singapore," Juno notes.

The broadcaster has studios in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Sydney, which deliver data, voice-over IP (VoIP) and video traffic to the company's Singapore studio. "We decided that fibre optics was the solution in this case and Macquarie Telecom won the contract for it," says Juno.


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