By Stuart Newton, VP of Corporate Strategy, IneoQuest
IneoQuest [iQ] has been around for about 15 years. We spent the first eight years producing the first video-quality assurance solutions for IPTV and cable video deployments, and in that time we worked with the majority of the leading telecommunication and cable companies around the world.
If you look at the history of linear IPTV video delivery via broadband or cable, it was all end-to-end MPEG transport streams. In that system, you can you look at MPEG packets all the way through the network – whether on ASI at the headend, in the IP core network or going over the last mile DSL, cable or whatever it happens to be. But with HTTP-based adaptive video, the model is completely different. The video starts in one original format, and is converted into many different forms based on what device the viewer is using, the software/apps on that device, the quality of the connection it has, and the demands of the content itself. Converting and managing all of these different formats, bitrates, and protocols can introduce unique, complex problems.
To complicate things further, between the content delivery networks (CDNs) and the viewer devices there are multiple different types of broadband access networks; so the video could be carried via cable, xDSL, fibre (xPON), a public Wi-Fi or WiMax infrastructure, or over a mobile infrastructure using 3G, 4G or LTE. And then of course there is the domestic Wi-Fi network, which is often used to extend these other access network connections within the viewer’s home. All of these different ‘last mile’ technologies have the potential to affect quality levels and viewer experience. We have basically moved from a world of controlled video delivery where everything was managed by one or a few entities from the headend through the core network, the broadband pipe and out to the set-top box, to a world of multiple different networks (the internet), vendor silos, protocols, technologies and bit rates of the same video stream to many, many devices. It’s a huge change that is constantly increasing the complexity of delivering video.
It’s evident to me from some of the services that I’ve seen – and in conversations with colleagues and friends – that you get a very clear picture, very quickly, about the type of content and quality of viewer experience that broadcasters are providing. Some have been offering additional OTT/multiscreen services for free until now, but as they improve quality and start rolling out other content, they are going to want to charge for it. Many realized that the monetization cycle began with the ability to ensure the delivery and quality of the content before going on to fine-tuning other aspects of the content, including advertising, and providing additional services.
This is, of course, a dynamic problem, because as you are attracting new subscribers, you affect the performance of the delivery infrastructure. It requires awareness and infrastructure flexibility. And we have found over the years is that the biggest concern for many operators is how to deliver the video with the right quality consistently. Even though they want to know who is watching on what device in order to better monetize, it is all a waste of time and money if the viewer’s video quality is poor. Consistent delivery quality is always ‘step one’.
I think that the evolution of the OTT sector over the next few years is going to go fascinating, and the challenges are only going to increase. And there are two major topics that I believe are going to affect the industry over that period.
The first is advanced customer experience: making sure you reduce churn, generate excellent brand awareness, and provide the best experience you can. Real-time analytics will be key to enabling that kind of future.
Secondly, network function virtualization (NFV) is going to be realistically deployed. If video service providers want to provide services that are going to be highly adaptable and dynamic, then NFV is certainly going to be deployed alongside software defined networking (SDN) for video services. Again, real-time analytics is going to be a critical part of the control and feedback loop to enable that.
It will be an exciting future. Any one of these topics is a huge consideration in itself. As a company, we’ve embraced significant number of new technologies and capabilities in virtualization and analytics in order to prepare. It’s certainly going to be an interesting few years ahead.
To read more about IneoQuest’s partnership with Intel – IneoQuest and Intel End-to-end Video Quality Assurance through Virtualization, go to: http://bit.ly/2d8gIdX