Radio NZ readies Internet broadcasts

In two to three weeks' time, Radio New Zealand expects to start delivering a range of on-demand content and simulcast audio over the Internet.

Radio NZ expects to webcast 60 hours every week and has deployed content servers in the Auckland, Wellington and Palmerston North Internet exchanges to transmit it around the New Zealand Internet. A server in California has also been deployed to serve content to New Zealanders abroad and to customers' national providers that do not peer at the exchanges for various reasons.

All the servers will use a single consistent "anycast" IP address, like the DNS root servers, so as to ensure content is delivered to customers from the server closest to them.

Radio NZ's new media manager, Richard Hulse, says the standard service will run at 16K bps (bits per second), providing mono sound at roughly AM radio quality. The streaming bit rate for the standard service may be upped to 24K bps once Radio NZ knows how much bandwidth is needed.

However, ISPs that peer at the various exchanges will have access to an enhanced service at higher bit rates. On-demand content will be available at 32K bps to 48K bps and live streams at 48K bps to 64K bps; the increased bandwidth for the latter will also make room for stereo sound. In both cases, the streams can be listened to with a software player such as Windows Media Player and Apple iTunes, or Nullsoft Winamp.

Providers that do not peer — such as the country's largest ISPs, New Zealand Telecom and TelstraClear — will get the content from the U.S., which is set to provide the standard service at 16K bps only, as it delivers content over expensive and less efficient international circuits.

Some content limited to New Zealand for copyright reasons will not be available to ISPs that do not peer, as it would have to be served to those from the U.S. server. Queries from Computerworld New Zealand to Telecom and TelstraClear asking if they would peer with Radio NZ at the exchanges in order to provide national access to the streams so their customers would enjoy higher bit rates and stereo sound went unanswered yesterday.

Hulse says Radio NZ wants to make it as easy as possible for the around 686,000 people who tune in to National Radio and Concert FM broadcasts each week to listen to the internet transmissions. This is the reason, rather than any philosophical argument over peering, that Radio NZ settled on using the internet exchanges, he says, as peering exchanges provide the cheapest and most efficient way to reach listeners.

Radio NZ intends to install content servers at new peering exchanges around the country when they are deployed, as well as the MUSH networks outlined in the Government's Digital Strategy document in, for example, hospitals, Hulse says. He expects the service to be very popular and recommends that providers peer directly with the anycast routers at all exchanges where they have connectivity for best performance.

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