BBC CTO Matthew Postgate says more efficient, flexible network will facilitate development of 4K and VR broadcasts
The BBC says a new £100m broadcast network deal with BT will save “tens of millions of pounds” and put the corporation in a better position to cover special events and new technologies like 4K.
The new network will connect all of the BBC’s UK sites, including 21 broadcasting centres and local radio stations as well as main overseas bureaux and local partners. It will carry all of the BBC’s video, audio and data traffic, including landline and broadband services.
It is claimed the additional flexibility and efficiency of the network will allow the BBC to explore “data hungry” formats like Ultra HD and virtual reality, while allowing for additional services and capacity to be added for special events such as the Olympics or a General Election.
The BBC tested LTE and 4K broadcast at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, whgile it teamed up with EE for a 4G transmission of the 2015 FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Aston Villa.
The deal also helps the BBC cut costs ahead of its anticipated charter renewal. Last year, the BBC said it was going to cut 1,000 jobs and merge several tech teams as it seeks to find savings of £1.5bn to come to terms with falling income and a seven year freeze in the licence fee.
“This is an important step towards building an internet-fit BBC and will allow us to provide more interactive and personalised content in the future,” said BBC CTO Matthew Postgate. “At a time when the BBC faces serious financial challenges, it will also save us tens of millions of pounds so we can focus more of our money on the programmes and services for licence fee payers.”
The seven-year agreement, which can be extended for another three, replaces an existing contract with Vodafone through Atos. The procurement forms part of the BBC’s Aurora programme, which is re-sourcing all of the BBC’s main technology projects as they expire in April 2017.
That deadline applies to the new broadcast network, with BBC working with both Vodafone and BT to ensure a smooth transition. Vodafone will remain a technology partner of the BBC, providing a data centre, telephony services and additional connectivity in London.
“We are delighted by the BBC’s decision to choose us as their next generation broadcast network partner,” added Mark Wilson-Dunn, global vice president of BT Media and Broadcast. “Both of our organisations have a vital part to play in making the best use of advanced technology to support and enable the ever-accelerating evolution of broadcast media.”