Two of the country's biggest radio broadcasters are installing "broadband" style networks between their stations to allow programme material to be networked across the country, writes Kevin Hilton.
The Capital Radio Group has contracted Thus Teleco, which owns ISP Demon, to install an ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) IP infrastructure between its 10 sites around the UK, fanning out from its main base in London. In a separate project, the BBC is running a similar pilot scheme at Radio 4. Both projects illustrate the recent desire within broadcasting companies to exploit the potential of broadband internet technology to carry audio, video, e-mail and other data over the same network at the same time, in real time.
With a few exceptions, each Capital site comprises at least two radio stations, usually one FM service, one Gold station and also runs DAB services. Richard Bettison, chief engineer of networks, explained that the project has been undertaken to allow programme material to be networked, particularly between the Capital Gold stations. "If a name band goes into our Newcastle station and does a good interview, the only way for that to be distributed at the moment is over ISDN, which would mean making 10 different calls," he said. "With ATM all someone needs to do is place it into the system and the other stations can just drag and drop it into their own computers."
Bettison estimated that the majority of sites should be on the ATM network by the summer. The BBC hosted an open day at its R&D centre at Kingswood Warren to raise industry awareness of ATM and the AES47 "glue standard" that makes it possible to carry broadcast material. Senior BBC R&D engineer Chris Chambers commented that the goal has been to create a dial-up, real-time, on-demand linear audio delivery service with low delay.