BT announced today that it has developed a trial of a software-defined network (SDN) architecture to enable a next generation highly flexible broadcast network, in a first for the company. The technology is being trialled at Innovation Week during 12 – 16 June, in BT’s Labs at Adastral Park, Ipswich.  

BT will demonstrate how multiple HD uncompressed video flows can be transported across a SDN through to a production studio via high-bandwidth network pipes. This will enable live footage to be captured remotely, allowing broadcasters the opportunity to cover events without needing to send multiple  camera crews, potentially saving millions of pounds in the future as they look to move away from having studios on-site full of equipment.

The technology will allow broadcasters increased flexibility, with the ability to change the format of footage at the touch of a button as it passes across the infrastructure.

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BT is using equipment and software provided by Nevion and Cisco for this specific piece of research. Nevion’s media nodes encapsulate raw video into the desired format before transmitting it over the IP network which is built using Cisco switches. The core SDN technology is provided by Cisco, with Nevion’s VideoIPath software providing the SDN management and orchestration.

Mark Wilson-Dunn, vice president of BT Media & Broadcast, said: “This is a really exciting development for our researchers, as we continuously look to innovate and upgrade our broadcast networks, which carry footage all over the world. We’re keen to explore how a broadcast infrastructure based on true SDN and related technologies could potentially allow us to build a brand new next generation and multi-tenanted global network  in the future in the same way as we led the way on MPLS and IP based media networks previously. This is the first step towards that and I’m pleased that we can continue to lead the industry on this.”

Peter Karlstromer, Senior Vice President, Global Service Provider, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Russia, Cisco, said: “BT and Cisco have been working closely together for a number of years to develop innovative software-defined solutions that bring unprecedented flexibility to telecom services, including how broadcast content is distributed and shared. This ground-breaking technology offers a host of benefits, including the ability for BT to automate processes to capture, edit and distribute live footage faster and more efficiently than ever before.”

Geir Bryn-Jensen, CEO of Nevion, said: “Nevion has been working closely with BT on the orchestration and control of software defined networks since our first joint deployment five years ago of a cutting-edge UK-wide IP contribution network. BT is a truly innovative service provider, always pushing the boundaries of technology and its applications to the broadcast industry. Through Nevion’s close collaboration with BT, we have evolved our VideoIPath orchestration tools and our IP media nodes to meet the latest and most exacting requirements of the industry – something we are very proud of.”

The research builds on BT’s recent announcements, with the company’s Media and Broadcast division delivering a state of the art network to the BBC, in a seven year contract worth more than £100 million. This will enable the BBC to support more innovation and to explore emerging, data-hungry formats such as Ultra HD (4K) and 360 degree content. The network links all BBC UK sites and will also connect to the main overseas bureau and partners for playout of the BBC’s TV channels. It will carry video, audio and data traffic, as well as fixed line telephony, ISDN and broadband services.

BT has also successfully provided the UK’s first uncompressed video contribution network connecting all 20 Premier League football stadiums in a three year deal with the League’s international broadcasting outlet, Premier League Productions (PLP).

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