Telstra, Seven launch digital network

Running on Telstra's existing ATM backbone, the network will be crucial to the delivery of new broadcasting services anticipated by the introduction of digital television to Australia in 2001.

"We have been developing the network for about two years . . . it has specifically evolved to cater for the new [broadcasting] legislation," said Lindsay Yelland, Telstra's business solutions group managing director.

Designed by Telstra, in conjunction with free-to-air broadcasters Seven, the Nine Network and Channel Ten, the network uses standards-based technology -- 45Mbps MPEG2 compression technology to distribute high-definition TV, standard definition and Dolby digital audio between network stations and affiliated sites.

Judi Stack, director of operations at the Seven Network, said the network has the potential to reduce telecommunication costs at the station by between 10 and 20 per cent. In addition, the network is a key piece in Seven's transition to a "tapeless environment", she said.

The Seven Network is planning to establish a centralised server farm in Melbourne to digitally store its data. "The quality of the material passing through the [DVP] network is far superior to the system it replaces and provides Seven with greater flexibility and control over its distribution network," Stack said.

It is planned that Seven's existing network will be decommissioned and the DVP will be used in conjunction with Seven's existing satellite network provided by Cable & Wireless Optus.

Roger Barrett, Seven's network director of engineering, said the station is currently trialling the DVP, but is due to commission it in the next few weeks. He said the network will link Seven's station offices throughout the country as well as major sporting venues, including the Sydney Olympics.

While the project was originally the brain child of Channel Seven, who selected Telstra as the network provider from a tender process held more than two years ago, the Nine and Ten Networks have also signed contracts to use the network. It is expected that other broadcasters will also want to sign on.

"We have had discussions with the ABC about it. I don't think they are using it," Yelland said.

Yelland said Telstra has invested in excess of $20 million in the network, including funded capital and the development of the compression technology and network design. Systems integration was carried out by Philips.

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