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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.

The TV network approached Macquarie Telecom requesting access to multi protocol label switching (MPLS) technology, he says. "MPLS allows us to switch to new applications and change bandwidth allocation quickly, raising our operational efficiency."

"We are confident that Macquarie's technical team can meet our requirements and budget in the Asia-Pacific," Juno says. "Macquarie Telecom also requires its regional partners to provide service standards acceptable to customers like us."

Juno adds that moving video on fibre optics places significant demands on the telco, which needs infrastructure capable of meeting high service-level agreement (SLA) requirements. "Unlike regular services like e-mail where the user is usually unable to discern minute delays in data delivery, our live video services cannot afford lost data packets."

Cost and service

The broadcaster faces the challenge of balancing cost objectives with service-level requirements whenever it selects a telco. "Connectivity with our New York and London studios is not supplied by Macquarie, but a third party telco at a higher requested service level," Juno says.

He explains that for example, the circuit from New York delivers "vast quantities" of CNBC US programmes to the Singapore studio for a 12-hour re-broadcast period daily throughout the Asia-Pacific. "Consequently, we are paying a much higher rate to the third party telco compared with Macquarie Telecom, for this connection."

In Asia however, CNBC has accepted in Juno's words, a "slightly lower SLA" with Macquarie, because the company mainly does live interviews in the region. "Any disruption does not take us off-air, and we can adjust interview slots."

One-stop shop

Before Macquarie Telecom, CNBC's Hong Kong, Tokyo and Sydney studios relied on local telcos. "The first thing we did when migrating to the Macquarie service was to let go of these local telcos to achieve cost savings," Juno says.

He explains that Macquarie has become a "one-stop shop" for CNBC by providing data and voice services across the same network as live video traffic.

Additionally, it is more costly for CNBC to do one-on-one negotiations over rates with local telcos. Having multiple clients in each country, Macquarie Telecom can negotiate with local telcos on bundled bandwidth and hence lower rates for its own customers, including CNBC.

Varying expectations

Juno declines to disclose details of the SLA with Macquarie concerning downtime acceptance levels. However, he outlined CNBC's expectations.

"While we ask telcos for 99.99 per cent uptime for all services, we understand and accept slightly lower uptime levels for voice services because they are not considered mission-critical," he says. "However, we demand at least 99.99 per cent uptime for video services."

As a client, having to contact call centres whenever something goes wrong is a pain to Juno, who does not feel comfortable explaining problems to "unknown people" and waiting for them to pass on the message to problem fixers.


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