From satellite to fibre – addressing the issues of performance, installation and cost

By: Mark Webb - 05/09/2011

Mark Webb, Business Development Manager, Media. Mark has been responsible for expanding Colt's value added media capabilities to broadcasters, publishers, and other media organisations in Europe since 2011.

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The future of satellite is under the microscope. With competition for share of audience increasing, the pressure is on to look at ways to increase the reliability and quality of delivering ever increasing volumes of data intensive content. The rise of HD and 3D content has heightened network congestion for broadcasters, particularly when they are looking to push the content out to multiple countries for major TV events, such as the London 2012 Olympics or Champions League. The industry has relied on satellite delivery for over two decades but fibre connection is emerging as a strong alternative to point-to-point satellite routes because of its ability to efficiently handle bandwidth hungry data. The question is: why now for a shift to fibre connectivity, and how significant is the shift?

The rise in the popularity of fibre has been driven by the industry’s continuous search for reliability, strong performance and lower costs. With satellite, the broadcast is subject to time delays and adverse weather conditions. In contrast, fibre provides higher bandwidth and combats viewing quality problems because fibre optic cable is not impacted by interferences over long distances. Fibre also delivers low latency, which ensures high quality content can move faster than ever before.

While performance is understandably a key priority for broadcasters, using satellite has always had the benefit of being quick and easy to install at the broadcast location. Fibre obviously has to be installed in advance and it has to be maintained to guarantee performance. However, when it comes to point to point connectivity options, fibre implementation is becoming ever more sophisticated which addresses maintenance concerns. For example, devices such as cushioned enclosures are used to protect connectors during the fibre installation process.

Finally the advent of fibre delivery has had a significant impact on the cost of permanent video links. When laying fibre optic cables the majority of the cost is incurred by digging up the ground. By installing large amounts of fibre at the start, service providers allow broadcasters to benefit from availability without having to worry about planning months in advance. Importantly it can also be provided at a cost that is competitive with satellite while offering higher bandwidth availability. While satellite won’t be going away any time soon, fibre is certainly on the way up.

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