Eurovision Weighs Fiber Options

By | May 3, 2004 | Feature

Eurovision’s new fiber network should not unduly affect its existing business with satellite operators. Indeed, the introduction of the terrestrial technology will be one of the main challenges facing the company this year, said Paolo Pusterla, Eurovision’s head of strategy and business development.

As the operational service of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Eurovision is the world’s largest provider of international transmission services for live sports and news events. To that end, the fiber network is a key initiative for the organization.

Pusterla calls this network a “substantial” undertaking for the company. It connects nine cities in Europe and the United States seamlessly, including New York City and Washington, D.C. The ability to carry video, data and private data services that broadcasters may require via either a satellite or fiber infrastructure would allow broadcasters to have a single, cost-effective facility.

Pusterla told Satellite News in an exclusive interview that the rollout of a fiber network could be regarded as bad news for satellite operators, at least to a certain extent. However, the goal is to try to give broadcasters the appropriate infrastructure for the services they request. “Fiber is more appropriate when you need to convey video traffic in point-to-point connections,” he said. “It is going to be inevitable that a lot of that traffic migrate into that infrastructure. It makes economic sense.”

Although fiber is gaining an increased role with the carrier, Pusterla said he expects satellite bandwidth requirements to remain relatively constant. For Eurovision, bandwidth requirements overall have been increasing, and the addition of fiber to the existing satellite network has not necessarily curbed the need for satellite capacity.

“As the permanent network is concerned, we will be sticking to the levels — at least in the short term — that we have today,” Pusterla said. “I suspect we have a higher degree of variable geometry in the network to the extent we will scale it up.” However, Pusterla and some satellite executives are beginning to question high lease charges and long-term commitments.

“Satellite will remain the leader in infrastructure, in terms of video contributions,” Pusterla said. Eurovision will continue to have a “very close relationship” with satellite operators, he added.

“We are still buying a lot of capacity this year,” Pusterla said. “Most of the capacity is for special events like the Athens Olympics, Euro 2004, the enlargement of the European Union. This event will drive high-consumption of live feeds from the major capitals in Eastern European countries. The lion’s share of all that extra capacity that will be added on our permanent network will still be added on satellite.”

2004 is going to be a busy year due to the number of special events taking place. With the Olympics, Euro 2004, the ongoing events in the Middle East and key government elections, there is likely to be strong demand for Eurovision services, Pusterla said. That level of heightened demand would be good news for satellite operators, and these events will keep bandwidth consumption high.

On the video front, satellite still has strong upside for two key reasons, Pusterla said. One area where the company hopes to play a key role is in high-definition television (HDTV). He said Eurovision is “motivated” to accommodate HD feeds in its network, especially because those transmissions inevitably consume more bandwidth.

“We are aware of the major developments taking place in this domain in the United States and in Japan,” Pusterla said. “We think these will be the leading areas of the world in HD, and we are already catering for those broadcasters for their contributions out of Europe.”

Pusterla also believes the introduction of digital terrestrial broadcasting will be a new source of multiplexes on DBS-type satellites. It, too, will require additional bandwidth and transponders.

The company aims to be a strong link in the content distribution chain. More than 15,000 hours of programming are transmitted each year, and Eurovision organizes multilateral transmissions and exclusive circuits for broadcasters that wish to customize their signals.

Contact: Morand Fachot, EBU, e-mail: fachot@ebu.ch.

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