Why OTT needs multicast ABR


Damien Lucas TV-Bay Magazine
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Last year, Netflix’s global revenue reached $11 billion, with 24 million new names added to its subscribers’ list. Viewers are certainly making their preferences heard – and voting with their remote controls to show that over-the-top (OTT) content is here to stay.

However, OTT doesn’t just mean video on demand but extends to live streaming too. Driven by the Rio Games and with the 2018 FIFA World Cup only months away, more and more of us want to stream live content – and do so across our tablets and smartphones, as well as our TV screens. In fact, the live video streaming market is set to be worth more than $70 billion by 2021.

Great news for broadcasters – except that market expectations put great pressures on existing technologies. OTT live streaming can obviously be very demanding from a bandwidth perspective, especially during unexpected traffic peaks. Say millions of viewers suddenly start live streaming a football match from a single operator, that operator is going to struggle to cope with delivering each stream in high quality, with as little latency as possible.

The answer lies in implementing multicast ABR (adaptive bitrate) technology. In conjunction with a content delivery network, it delivers all the streams requested by viewers via multicast. This means that operators are only delivering a single stream from their origin server, thereby reducing the bandwidth strain on their own network and instead using home network devices as part of the CDN infrastructure.

This advanced technology is able to adapt the quality of the stream being delivered, according to the device a viewer is using. This results in less buffering and latency and drives further efficiency for the operator — delivering a 4K-quality stream to someone watching a live event on a smartphone, for example, is simply an inefficient use of bandwidth capacity.

However, there are still some barriers when it comes to meeting — and ideally exceeding — the demands of viewers looking to live stream content outside of the home. These expectations have been fuelled by more affordable mobile data plans, the rise of 4G and the emergence of 5G.

People are no longer exclusively watching live TV in the home: they are enjoying their favourite content while commuting to and from work, sitting in coffee shops and even while on holiday. These viewers are just as important to broadcasters and operators as those live streaming content over their home networks, but unfortunately none of them are really benefiting from multicast ABR technology. Therefore, broadcasters need to extend their multicast ABR technology across LTE networks if they are to keep all their viewers satisfied.

This need to deliver multicast ABR technology over multiple networks —both inside and outside of the home — is not exactly unexpected. Operators naturally deliver their services using various forms of transport, whether it’s fibre, DSL, cable or otherwise and so it only makes sense that any live streaming service they launch makes use of multicast ABR technology that is compatible with all possible transport methods, including LTE. This would, in essence, enable operators to have a single CDN that spans across a wide variety of networks, further consolidating their services and maximising operational efficiency.

This also significantly improves the overall live streaming experience for users who benefit from a seamless video experience, even if they change their network in the middle of streaming. For example, if someone is live streaming a TV show using a home Wi-Fi network and then leaves the house to walk down the road and catch a train, the stream won’t be interrupted in any way. It will simply carry on streaming at optimum quality over the LTE network without any disruption to the viewer.

As multicast ABR continues cope with large volumes of streaming traffic over home networks, operators must now look to extend the benefits of the technology outside of the home and across external LTE networks. There’s a window of opportunity here to get ahead of the mainstream – and keep even the most demanding of subscribers completely happy with the service at the same time.


Tags: iss130 | ott | abr | adaptive bit rate | cdn | dsl | lte | Damien Lucas
Contributing Author Damien Lucas

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