A new era of bandwidth-hungry applications is putting enormous pressure on both providers of mobile services and those delivering broadcast content. We assess the challenges they face and consider the solution
These days it’s not unusual for businesses to depend on a high capacity network solution to support their operations and to connect effectively to their customers. This is especially the case for providers of mobile data services, and for companies delivering broadcast content. In both instances, a large amount of time-critical data needs to be transported continuously, often over long distances and always with maximum reliability.
What to do with all this data
For players in the broadcast space, data loads are getting bigger and bigger as more and more customers are crying out for high definition (HD) and 3D television services. The mobile services world too needs to manage a combination of time-critical audio data – also moving to HD quality – and increasing amounts of data traffic from smartphone users looking to download rich content such as video.
Companies in both mobile and broadcast markets are looking for answers from their providers of IT and connectivity solutions. This poses fundamental questions about the quality of the underlying network infrastructure and the equipment that supports it. And it’s not just an issue for today, as current levels of data traffic are certain to be outstripped in the near future.
‘We’re gonna need a bigger network!’
“Players in both the mobile and broadcast sectors are finding their requirement for network capacity increasing, and they’re looking to us to solve that challenge for them,” says George Wareing, Head of Mobile & Broadcast at Virgin Media Business. “We’re seeing increasing demand for HD and 3D television services on the broadcast side. Also, thanks to uptake of devices like the iPhone, growth in popularity of 3G services is putting similar bandwidth demands on mobile service providers. Many providers have not predicted these demands and their existing network arrangements date back to the days of voice-only traffic.”
George believes the bottleneck for these mobile operators is not simply at access level, but further upstream in backhauling traffic across wide areas using infrastructure designed only for basic requirements. “They need the right sort of fibre network to give them back the advantage,” he says. “Ultimately, fibre is cost-effective and futureproofed. Mobile operators should perhaps think about investing beyond their immediate needs. They won’t solve their backhaul issues with multiple E1 connections alone.”
Transmode and Virgin Media Business
Transmode Systems AB is a leading provider of optical networking solutions for the transport of data, voice and video traffic. The company is also a close partner of Virgin Media Business. Based in Sweden, Transmode’s customers include fixed and mobile network operators, communications service providers, large enterprises and public institutions across Europe, the Americas and Asia. Its optical backhaul system has been fully integrated into the Virgin Media Business network to best serve the bandwidth needs of all types of organisation.
“We help a lot of customers who know what their bandwidth needs are today, but aren’t so sure about tomorrow, which points to the need for networks based around fibre and WDM to enhance flexibility,” says Ola Elmeland, Vice President of Marketing & Communications with Transmode. “They need the ability to upgrade their infrastructure easily so that they can add new services, or handle different types of traffic.”
Ola believes issues like network flexibility, scalability and performance are of particular interest to customers in the mobile services and content broadcast sectors. “For both broadcast and mobile applications, network latency really matters,” he says. “You think of latency and jitter counting in areas like financial services, but it’s the same for broadcast. Here, in our home market of Sweden, high capacity mobile services have been launched. Low latency is important there too. Users will expect to go to a website and get an immediate response. With a mobile application, low jitter and latency are crucial when it comes to synchronising base stations through the Ethernet pipe, which is vital if you want to avoid dropped calls as subscribers move from station to station.”
Customers in the broadcast sector are likely to have additional concerns that a connectivity supplier will be expected to address, says Ola. “They’ll be looking for solutions that work in situations where the space and power available are limited,” he explains. “A small footprint and lower power consumption are essential for any equipment they use – both for reasons of cost and environment.”
But is it reliable?
Reliability is naturally another priority for both mobile and broadcast players. “Network reliability is about the equipment and infrastructure, but it’s also about how you plan your network,” says Ola. “Virgin Media Business’s dense fibre network stretches all over the UK, and that translates into reliability.”
Virgin Media Business, in partnership with Transmode, is now providing full Service Level Agreement (SLA), high-reliability, fast backhaul solutions for both broadcasters and mobile operators.
Partners in success
Ola explains that Transmode and Virgin Media Business have together been able to answer the challenges faced by a number of mobile service providers and broadcast companies.
“We’ve enjoyed a long relationship together, working hand in hand,” he says. “We’re pleased to have been part of their success story. Together we’ve given customers what they want, using our combined product knowledge to help tailor solutions for our shared customers. Virgin Media Business’s culture is all about customer satisfaction, and so is ours.”