LOTR nearly rules them all

Forget number eight fencing wire - the premiere of the final part of Lord of the Rings made it to air thanks mostly to CAT5 cabling.

Demand for live footage from the premiere of Return of the King was so great, Wellington telco provider CityLink was at one stage running nearly 600Mbit/s connection where it had expected traffic levels of only half that.

Richard Naylor, CityLink's technical director, worked till late last night to ensure connectivity for both television outside broadcast units and streaming media to various websites were available.

"Let's just say CAT5 kept at least one broadcaster up and running today".

Naylor says demand for the faster streams were highest.

"People definitely want the broadband connection to this."

CityLink had several streams connecting at 56Kbit/s, 128Kbit/s and 384Kbit/s with the latter speed being most popular.

Unfortunately a number of postings to the New Zealand Network Operators Group mailing list pointed to problems for viewers around the country.

"The 128Kbit/s stream plays (just) but gets very blocky and stops at times. The 384 Kbit/s connection.. just doesn't go or just buffers and buffers," wrote one anguished fan.

"They come and go, but they go more than they come," wrote another at the peak of the demand.

Having US-based technology news aggregator site Slashdot point to the feeds early yesterday morning also made for an exciting time of it, according to CityLink managing director Neil de Wit.

"But the tech boys were walking round with big grins on their faces having seen that one off."

Joe Abley, a Kiwi network guru based in Canada, ran a mirror for the streaming video for offshore viewers. However the infamous "Slashdot effect" took care of that.

"I had two US nodes running which were coping very nicely with the load, right up until the story hit Slashdot. After the slashdotting, I had to pull them; the machines were dead in the water."

Abley describes the event as the ultimate flash mob.

Nzoom ran clips from the news footage gathered during the day and linked to the web developer R2's site.

Xtra's broadband site didn't carry the live coverage at all, also relying on replaying TVNZ's news clips instead.

However viewers of Stuff's service and Wellington tourism site WellingtonNZ, both carried the feeds for all to see.

New Zealand Herald readers were fed a live, continually updated text-based service from Herald reporter Cathy Aronson. There were still photos but no streaming media.

The number of watchers logging on to see the coverage faded from around 5pm when the TV coverage began in earnest. Naylor and his team remained on the job, however, until around midnight to ensure connectivity for various broadcasters and their late-night news shows.

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Paul Brislen

IDG New Zealand

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