BT has won a five-year contract to provide ITV with a digital broadcast network, connecting 13 major broadcasting sites, two data centres and 32 offices and bureaus across the UK.

The so-called “X-Net” network is based on BT's 21CN optical network, which provides multiple wavelengths around the country. The network will enable ITV to transfer large amounts of data and uncompressed HD video between broadcasting sites and data centres at speeds of up to 10Gbps.

“In the past, what we've done is use IP/MPLS as a means of sharing out the optical capacity between lots of different customers,” said John Ellerton, Solutions Consultant in BT's Broadcast division.

“Now we don't need to do that any longer, we can just say, here you go ITV, here's half a dozen wavelengths that you can use for yourself, and we'll carry video in some and data in some others. So suddenly you've got much more capacity to use.” 

Ellerton said that transferring video uncompressed means that latency is reduced, so if an interviewer and an interviewee are in studios at opposite ends of the country, they can have a much more natural conversation.

It also prevents concatenation of encoding, which occurs if a signal is compressed and decompressed multiple times, leading to a degradation in picture quality.

The new network will also carry compressed media and data links over Ethernet between smaller ITV sites and news bureaus. The network is expected to be in place by spring 2014, and BT Wholesale will manage it from its International Media Centre at BT Tower, London.

“Today’s audiences want to watch quality content wherever and whenever they choose using a variety of platforms, and our broadcast network must be flexible in order to meet this demand,” said William Medlicott, Finance Director at ITV Broadcast.

“BT’s network solution will help us deliver content ready for transmission quickly and effectively across ITV and the variety of partners we collaborate with on a daily basis.”

BT is a long-term partner of ITV, and BT Wholesale’s Media and Broadcast unit already provides ITV with the network infrastructure to support content digitisation, workflows and TV outside broadcast services.

ITV was also the first customer to join BT’s UK Media Network, which delivers standard and high definition TV content for the UK’s six broadcast multiplexes which serve up to 120 of the main digital transmitters around the country.