When large sporting events take place during the day, many people are stuck in the office and are unable to head to watch the game with something cold to drink in their hand. In previous years, these matches might have been shown on televisions around the office, or in larger offices employees would get together in a meeting room or breakout room to watch the game. However, nowadays, as internet connectivity has become more of a commodity, and much faster than it used to be, people will take the opportunity to watch sport on their computer – whilst continuing to work of course!


The majority of our customers are businesses – and so when there is a large sporting event taking place, their employees, at their desks, often use services such as BBC iPlayer or the ITV Hub to watch the games to ensure they do not miss out. We want users to have the same experience as if they were to watch the game at home on TV.

BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub are content-rich services – this is where you can go to a website on your PC (or an app on your preferred smartphone or tablet) and search anything that has been shown in the last seven days and watch on demand. On average as many as 70% of UK adults are watching on-demand television per month – more than anywhere else in the world [source]. More recently, live streaming has also been available meaning you can watch as if you were at home, on the sofa. This does not happen automatically: content needs to be delivered to the user, and the user experience is always at the front of the mind of the content owners and network operators.

This is where Content Distribution Networks (as you’d expect for IT terminology, this is shorted to the acronym CDN) comes in. These are organisations that want to bring content nearer to the users by putting servers that hold the content ‘nearer’ the users. Rather than all of the BBC content being delivered from one data centre in London, it can be delivered from many different datacentres that are nearer the users, or from servers installed within the network the users are connected to.

Akamai (AKAM) are one of the largest global CDN’s and Six Degrees are an Akamai Accelerated Network Partner – this is where we have installed Akamai servers inside our network in both our Birmingham and London data centres and this means a proportion of the content Akamai deliver will be delivered directly from theses servers – whether that is live streams of football or the latest software update for your Smartphone. This is good for users as the content is nearer, and it is good for the network operator as we carry the traffic over less distance across our network. All in all, this delivers a better user experience. Traffic that isn’t served from these on-net clusters, still comes from peering between the Six Degrees network and Akamai clusters, at public Internet Exchanges such as the London Internet Exchange (commonly referred to as LINX).

Remember the next time you’re watching something on your computer or downloading your favourite music that there is a lot of planning and engineering that takes place to ensure the end-to-end experience continues to meet the ever growing user expectation.


Ben Ryall, Six Degrees Technology Director, Data, Operations and Engineering