The broadcast business is changing. Smaller operators have consolidated into larger media groups. Larger media companies have become global. All this linking of broadcast operations into regional and global networks would not be possible without video networks.
Last century, terrestrial real-time connections used expensive long-haul coaxial and microwave circuits, with satellite used for transcontinental and transoceanic hops. Over the last decade, video is being transported more and more over fiber networks, leveraging the falling cost of fiber connections. Satellite still has advantages where fiber connections may not be readily available, especially for occasional use.
HD-SDI over coax is limited to short runs in the order of 100m. Even within a broadcast campus, fiber has become necessary for interbuilding connections. For connections of any distance, fiber has become the favored physical layer.
With videotape reaching obsolescence, non-real-time content distribution by the transport of files via fiber networks is replacing physical movement of tapes. One of the big advantages of file-based operations is that files can be transferred over regular IT networks. As fiber networks have spread across the world, it has become attractive to use them for video transport, supplanting and replacing satellite networks. Using regular telco networks, broadcasters can move content as files in non-real time or as streams in real time.
Fiber networks are built to telco standards, which have evolved from methods to multiplex many voice circuits together for telephony and from data delivery networks. Real-time video transport has some special requirements, which in the past have been catered for by custom systems that add cost.
The public Internet represents a large proportion of fiber traffic, with private traffic from enterprise users — especially the financial sector — making up most of the rest. As broadcasters represent a very small proportion of overall traffic, they are not a priority for many operators, and they may not be inclined to offer special products and services to meet broadcasters’ needs. With many telcos now offering GigE connections at a low cost, it is advantageous for broadcasters to use that interface rather than look for video-specific circuits.
The service offerings from fiber network operators vary from country to country. It depends on the extent of the deregulation of the telecommunications systems and how much investment has gone into new networks.
As fiber costs fall, broadcasters can afford to use more metro and long-haul connections. This trend will aid the drive to globalization in the media business.