Level3 Sends Vyvx Network Back to School(s)

For college athletic venues located in NFL cities, transmission via fiber is a breeze, thanks to Vyvx Points of Presence (POPs) provided by Level3 Communications. Until recently, however, for schools where there is no NFL team nearby (such as LSU’s hometown of Baton Rouge, LA, or the University of Oklahoma’s Norman), tapping into that Vyvx network was impossible. But thanks to a new architecture from Level3, university facilities can now be connected into the Vyvx network without building a capital-intensive POP.

What Is a POP?
Level3’s Vyvx services rely on POPs, telco facilities where Level3 houses networking equipment to provide services for the surrounding area. A Vyvx POP includes digital video switches tied to routers, which enable connectivity with the other POPs.

“We take video circuits locally and terminate them into video switches,” says Dan Pitts, manager of sales engineering for Level3. “The video switches connect to video switches in other cities, so that we can take a video handoff in Green Bay, WI, and connect it into a rightsholder in New York City. The POP becomes the local ‘gateway’ into our network.”

Video Via IP
The new video architecture enables connectivity between college athletics venues and the Vyvx network by encapsulating the video files in IP and transmitting them over the Vyvx data network.

“What makes our new video architecture different is that we can deploy and manage video gear at a customer location, convert the video signal to data at the customer site, and then transport the signal over Level3’s data network, which extends throughout the U.S. and Europe,” Pitts explains. “We tie this data into special routers at Level3 POPs that enable us to schedule the connections over the Vyvx network.”

The architecture works hand in hand with the existing Vyvx network, as it simply carries video, encapsulated in IP, over the IP backbone of the Vyvx data network.

“In the past, our sweet spot has been delivering video from professional venues,” says Wade Clark, account director for Level3. “We occasionally did some college sports because a university was close to one of our POPs, but it was very opportunistic. The new architecture gives us the ability to address the 80% or 90% of the college sports market that’s not located in an NFL city.”

Moving Into Oklahoma
In August, Vyvx was connected throughout the venues on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, and, for the first time, broadcasters visiting the Norman campus did not have to bring in two satellite trucks to ensure transmission of their production.

“This year, the broadcasters used fiber as their main transmission out and brought in just one satellite truck for backup,” says Brandon Meier, executive director of video production for the University of Oklahoma athletic department. “We have a pipe in our control room here, so now, when ESPN calls and wants one of our coaches to do an interview, we tell them to just book it through Vyvx and we can send whatever they need.”

In fact, Meier began pushing for a Vyvx connection in order to simplify the process of conducting such interviews — and hopefully increase exposure for his athletic department in the process.

“We felt like we weren’t getting out there as much as we could, because the costs were high when they had to bring in a satellite truck just to get a five-minute interview,” Meier says. “It wasn’t until the Thunder NBA team came into Oklahoma City that the infrastructure was put in. The infrastructure actually piggy-backs; we send our signal from Norman to Oklahoma City and then out.”

Venues as Joint Ventures
Every venue on the OU campus has fiber connectivity, so, in exchange for Level3’s commitment to connectivity, Meier’s team helped get those Level3 signals around the campus.

“It is a joint venture,” Meier says. “We give them our fiber and help our broadcasters plug into the right circuits. Every once in a while, we have to patch around the fiber, when we go from football to basketball to baseball to wrestling, but we also aren’t paying anything to have that infrastructure in place, though we realize that they’re paying AT&T to have that pipe open all the time.”

Fiber also provides some much needed stability for OU broadcasts. Oklahoma is known for its spring storms, and rain-induced broadcast blackouts have hampered some of Meier’s productions.

“We’ve had a lot of problems in the past with rainouts on our broadcasts,” he says. “This has given us a lot more stable transmission path.”
Level3 now supports more than 30 college venues across the country, running at 213 Mbps per channel, and has also tested uncompressed HD transmissions at 1.5 Gbps.

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