Distribution & Delivery Global Viewpoint – February 2022

Internet Contribution

We do enjoy drawing the internet as a fluffy cloud in our system diagrams when designing broadcast contribution circuits. But as we expand our reliance on this seemingly magical technology, is it time to take more of an interest in what is going on under the hood?

Telco’s have provided an outstanding service for broadcaster’s contribution circuits with dedicated connectivity, guaranteed bandwidth and predictable latency. And a whole infrastructure was developed to facilitate a customer service with dedicated communications providing direct access to the heart of the telco infrastructure with a human ready to answer and deal with any problem that may have arisen.

Clearly, the internet is different. By virtue of its distributed nature there are no centralized control points of contact should a problem manifest itself. There are no dedicated circuits with end-to-end service level agreements for latency and bandwidth. And knowing where data are at any point in time is challenging.

My last point may not be too relevant as mesh networks do not require knowledge of the whereabouts of every single data packet but instead encourage an understanding of statistical distribution. Although encryption and VPNs allow us to keep the media streams secure, the lack of service level agreements and points of contact do cause me some apprehension.

It might be that these can be solved using a dedicated network supplier who can guarantee connectivity through the internet, but then we run the risk of just kicking the can down the road in terms of our comprehension.

Understanding how the internet works is a lot more difficult than it sounds due to the many commercially confidential agreements that keep key aspects of it hidden from us. And unfortunately, broadcast contribution circuits do not rate very highly on the internet service provider’s radar. The contribution circuit commercial opportunities pale into insignificance when we consider the opportunities offered to internet service providers from other industries.

So, what’s the answer? Well, I don’t think just representing the internet as a fluffy cloud will help much. But at least trying to understand how the internet operates will allow us to deliver better connectivity. For example, I was recently researching low latency IP circuits and came across the submarine cable map which provides a fascinating insight into how telcos are laying cables throughout the oceans of the world to facilitate low latency delivery. Looking at this map shows hundreds if not thousands of ocean fiber cabling connecting the world.

Am I suggesting contacting the telcos, hiring circuits within the fibers and providing your own WDM terminal equipment to provide 1mS latency from New York to London? Certainly not but being aware that these cabling infrastructures exist will help enormously with understanding how the internet operates, and more importantly, how we can leverage it for our own advantage.

I’m afraid the days of drawing generic fluffy internet clouds are long gone as media requirements are just too specific, but this is a fantastic opportunity for anybody looking to gain greater understanding of the internet specifically for broadcasters and their unique requirements.