BBC Wales’ new £120m headquarters in Cardiff will be the corporation’s first to be outfitted entirely with IP infrastructure.
The building, due to open in late 2019, is part of a corporation-wide strategy to shift transport of signals to IP networks. The aim is to make cost savings and pave the way for future digital innovation.
The strategy has three main prongs. The first is the rollout by BT of an IP network linking all 21 broadcasting centres and local radio stations in the UK, as well as connecting to its main overseas bureaux and partners for playout of the BBC’s TV channels.
The network will carry all video, audio and data traffic, as well as fixed-line telephony, ISDN and broadband services. IP contribution links have already been introduced at major BBC ingest points in London and Salford, home of Five Live and BBC Sport.
“We will be more flexible in our ability to add extra services and capacity for major events,” said BBC head of product, systems and services Tim Sargeant.
“With a few exceptions, news and sport are using IP contribution as default.”
The IP network will also make it easier for the BBC to work with, and explore, emerging, data-hungry formats like UHD, 360-degree content and objectbased broadcasting.
BT’s seven-year contract is worth more than £100m, with an option for the BBC to extend it for a further three years. It is intended to save the BBC tens of millions of pounds.A second phase will extend IP connectivity within BBC facilities. The main challenge will be integrating incoming IP technology with existing HD-SDI video systems.
First of a generation
“Cardiff is a key new build and we’re putting IP at its core,” said Sargeant. “The procurement process is in the design stage. It will be among the first of a new generation using SMPTE 2110 to underpin video and IP routing. That’s relatively easy to do in a green build, but much harder in older hubs like Pacific Quay and MediaCityUK.
The technology installed there, such as HD-SDI routers, still has a lot of life to run. The plan is to introduce IP technology around the edge rather than rip and replace, unless there is a compelling reason to do so.”
There’s also an “active discussion” about the BBC’s approach to live streaming, which could lead to the broadcaster introducing parallel IP production technologies.
“The heavy lifting at BBC national and regional facilities will run uncompressed video, but there are a number of other internet technologies we must consider,” said Sargeant.
“Facebook Live is an IP production technology and it is coming without regard for our friendly broadcast standards. It’s got scale and cash and uses internet technology rather than purposebuilt broadcast technology.
“There is a growing interest among the production community in approaches for very low-cost, low-effort production with which to engage social platforms.”
Although there isn’t a huge difference between the cost of likefor- like SDI and IP equipment, the BBC expects the flexibility offered by IP solutions will mean that savings will be made over time.
“We are seeing a simultaneous shift towards service models with cost savings associated with that,” said Sargeant.