Q&A: SIS LIVE’s Mark Shadbolt discusses new Premier League fibre network


Mark Shadbolt, SIS LIVE

In a landmark project, SIS LIVE recently announced that it is commissioning high bandwidth dedicated fibre networks to key sports and leisure venues across the UK. The company is on course to have connected up all 20 Premier League football grounds by the start of the next season, with a further 30 sports stadiums around the country also expected to receive permanent fibre connectivity by the autumn. SIS LIVE sales director Mark Shadbolt spoke to SVG Europe about the challenges and motivations of this historic roll-out…

Why is now the right time for a new fibre network infrastructure of this kind? 

What’s driving it is that customers want services that take up more bandwidth – either in the form of greater data rates or multiple carriers. Because satellite [usage] remains constant or even increases in cost, and basically the more bandwidth you use the more cost there is, fibre network connection appears increasingly attractive.

Is the new Ultra HD format, 4K, an important driver?

4K is very [bandwidth] hungry, effectively four times the bandwidth of HD. Unless it’s really necessary to do 4K over satellite, the preference has always been for fiber. Regarding contributions feeds, there is a question about how many broadcasters will be taking 4K feeds… however, because of the sort of competition we are seeing between the like of BT and Sky, broadcasters are looking at differentiators [and 4K could be one of those].

Sky tried this with 3D, and I would suggest that it was not as successful as everyone anticipated because of the complexity of watching 3D; 4K, on the other hand, is just enhanced quality. Of course, we could see 3D come back around with glassless, but it’s a bit behind the curve at present.

What are the strength of your fibre network solution as opposed to that offered by your major competitor?

Our pedigree is with the broadcasters and we have a very clear understanding of what they want. We believe that increasingly people are looking for more bespoke fiber solutions. With some of the others available, there is a very regimented ‘take it or leave it’-type approach. Our aim is to simplify, so that internet would [always] be included and you will have the opportunity to take advantage of additional services, such as COFDM wireless camera links at some venues [which allow roving TV reporters to link instantly into the fibre network and deliver multiple live video streams for sport, sports news, etc]

Will more sites follow the initial 50?

Yes, it will go beyond the 50 into next year, and what will drive it will be the appetite for more and more live pictures. It’s never going to be the kind of situation where you have a fibre on every street corner, but wherever venues are to be found people will want quality pictures and so [fibre] will be something that they want to consider.

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