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Virgin Media

Virgin Media

In 2006, Virgin Media began a project to plan and implement a new digital broadcast TV infrastructure to replace the legacy infrastructure inherited from the amalgamation of three other providers. The project aims were to upgrade this legacy infrastructure with a system that would use reliable new technology and to create a platform for growth in SD and HD channels, while reducing costs arising from service level agreements (SLAs) and operations. To meet the key goals of reducing costs from SLA penalties and infrastructure maintenance, and providing substantially improved quality of service to the subscriber base, Virgin Media’s project architects implemented an unprecedented level of monitoring and diagnostic capability.

The new network infrastructure rationalized the broadcaster’s delivery chain, introducing IP technologies at all stages, and deployed a monitoring system from Bridge Technologies. The new system delivers end-to-end diagnostic and monitoring capability to Virgin Media staff, who can access, view and interrogate any point in the delivery chain, from any remote Web-enabled location. The delivery architecture is based on a single central headend, a hot-synchronized disaster recovery headend, a core IP network, a unified conditional-access environment and a redundant network architecture that would allow the 54 regional headends to continue service in the event of a failure.

The VideoBRIDGE system provides the critical requirement of 24/7 remote analysis of every point in the delivery chain, combining not only monitoring of equipment status, but also of QoS. The system delivers detailed real-time monitoring of data using the ETSI ETR 290 parameters for measurement of DVB satellite, cable and terrestrial, and related digital television systems, and combines it with accurate real-time data on key IP performance and integrity measures, to provide a unified monitoring and analysis environment. The vast amounts of data generated by the system are gathered into easily readable graphic displays that give engineers the ability to monitor hundreds of channels efficiently at a glance. Instead of spreadsheet-like grids of numerical data and banks of monitoring screens, engineers see color-coded, real-time status indicators that provide an instant overview of the entire service gathered onto a single screen, and a potential problem anywhere in the infrastructure is immediately obvious. If performance tested against any parameter causes concern, the system generates an alarm, and the engineer can immediately click on the link to displays of more detailed data that can pinpoint the cause.

The benefits have amounted to significant improvements in the operation. These include reduced fault investigation times resulting from the ability to pinpoint any fault on the network within minutes. Reduced callout costs are combined with a 99.98-percent QoS fulfilment. An additional benefit is the ability to identify deficiencies in content quality from suppliers and apply pressure for improvement by delivering detailed, accurate data in support of SLA negotiations. This new end-to-end monitoring capability will continue to improve service availability and QoS to customers, leading to increased penetration and the ability to expand and bring new channels to air.

  • New studio technology – network
    Submitted by Bridge TechnologiesDesign teamVirgin Media: Alistair Crook, head of TV ops.; Keith Wigmore, technical sponsor; Dave Wright, broadcast ops. specialist
    Bridge Technologies: Rolf Ollmar, CEO; Frank A. Ekern, sr. developer; Nils J. Zapffe, head of developmentTechnology at workBridge Technologies: VideoBRIDGE VB120 broadcast IP probe, VB220 IP probe, VB270 DVB-S/S2 input probe, VB12 portable broadcast IP probe, VB280 content extractor, VBC server, microVB miniature STB probe

© 2010 Penton Media, Inc.