For the telecoms network giant Telstra the last few years have been characterised by an expansion of its global services and further development of its presence in the sports market, Telstra Head of Broadcast Services Andreas Eriksson tells David Davies.
Joining Telstra in 2016 after several high-profile roles – including a stint at Ericsson that saw him involved in the launch of a multimedia messaging service – Andreas Eriksson has spent the ensuing years leading his team through what he describes as “three primary phases”.
“The first of these was very much focused around establishing a global programme in terms of Telstra Broadcast Services (TBS), including activity in global sales, operations and network building,” recalls Eriksson. “In the second phase, once we had set up the TBS unit, the core emphasis was on getting our name out there and starting to work with some of the leading players in the global sports industry. This side of the business is now well-established via a global media network that includes 2500 venues, to which we are connected through 17 partners around the world. Looking ahead we want to continue to expand and accelerate on that. Then in the third phase – also very much ongoing – we are continuing to develop innovative new solutions for requirements such as remote production.”
Remote production has certainly looked increasingly dynamic for TBS as word has spread about its Distributed Production Network (DPN). A deal to provide remote production services to FOX Sports in Australia constituted “an important early development in this area, and meant that we learnt a great deal.” A slew of high-profile engagements have followed, including the transportation of 30 HD live camera signals for International Television News’ production of the 2019 IAAF International World Relay Championships. This production saw Telstra’s DPN being used to transport live camera signals from the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama to Tokyo and then on to the NEP Andrews Hub located in Sydney.
Like many observers of the global sports broadcasting industry, Eriksson expects the current Covid-19 crisis to accelerate the adoption of remote and decentralised production. “I think we are already seeing evidence of this in that a lot of production happening in the Covid-19 period would not really be possible without these technologies,” he says. “The momentum was good [before Coronavirus], but I think that will increase now.”
Another development to which Eriksson draws attention is the continued growth of the Globecam miniature camera business. Provided as a managed service, the Globecam miniature camera kits incorporate built-in mechanical and electronic stabilisation for crisp, clear footage. Supporting HD live transmission, the cameras can also be used with links including short-range low-powered miniature links and more traditional 2GHz microwave technologies.
The Globecam models’ ability to be mounted on players, referees, umpires, jockeys, nets, bikes and race cars has resulted in them being “adopted by many different leagues around the world. Globecam is a very important part of the production services we offer through TBS,” confirms Eriksson.
Addressing ‘digital disruption’
The industry is already in the midst of a profound change thanks in no small part to greatly increased competition by new OTT and streaming platforms. Maintaining effective workflows and network infrastructures, as well as harvesting and interpreting critical data, are going to become even more crucial to operators in the future, and it was with such issues in mind that Telstra Broadcast Services launched Broadcast Plus in November 2019.
A partnership between TBS and the newly established Telstra Purple, Broadcast Plus provides specialist knowledge in media networks, cloud, collaboration, mobility, software, data and analytics, and design. The overriding objective, said TBS at the time of launch, is to help customers “address digital disruption and transform broadcast and online video operations”.
According to Eriksson, the evolution of Broadcast Plus acknowledges that “the network has become a part of the enabler for services including archive solutions. [Within the Telstra group] we have a great capability for building online platforms and managing them, and with Broadcast Plus we can work with customers at any stage of their transformation journey.” These ‘stages’ can include strategy setting, solution design and implementation, and the management of the systems and platforms.
If Broadcast Plus represents the very cutting edge of the Telstra business, it’s also important to consider the outlook for a rather more established aspect – Telstra’s satellite services. Although now part of a much more diversified delivery landscape, Eriksson believes that “satellite will continue to play an important role in broadcast delivery for some time to come. It remains a great means to drive and obtain reach in a cost-efficient way. But of course there has been plenty of development with other technologies, such as fibre, where we are also very active. Fibre solutions are [already very important] in terms of meeting high-bandwidth requirements and enabling remote production.”
Ultimately, it is probable that the industry will continue to embrace what Eriksson terms a “more holistic” approach towards delivery. “All of the different technologies – fibre, satellite and internet-based – have different user cases and are good for different applications,” he says. Hence why the TBS business will continue to “bring together the benefits of all these methods in its offerings”.
As to future developments, Eriksson is not certainly not alone in recognising “tremendous potential around 5G,” with TBS having already proven its value in 4G with the Managed Media Contribution enterprise solution. But putting aside specific technologies for a moment, Eriksson says he is also keen to maintain a focus on “developing and empowering the next generation of thought leaders. We passionately want to do that to help develop our team and ensure they get to work on some of the most complex and innovative projects with partners around the world. At the end of the day, a company is only ever as good as its own talent.”
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