The Key to Efficiently Manage Content Explosion

Diomedes Kastanis, VP, Head of Technology, CTO Business Unit Support Solutions, Ericsson
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Diomedes Kastanis, VP, Head of Technology, CTO Business Unit Support Solutions, Ericsson

Market Trends Beckon the Need for Cooperative Content Delivery

As the industry enters the Internet era of television where huge importance is placed on IP delivered TV, the biggest question is: “how will this infrastructure grow to meet rising demands at ‘TV scale’?” This is a question born not merely of technical evolution, but even more so, business evolution. Never has the last mile delivery been more critical than it is today; this area is key and laden with potential for further innovation and collaboration.

Todays Content Delivery Model

In today’s Internet model, there are various players involved in the end-to-end delivery of content, ranging from the content providers, Over-The-Top (OTT) providers and global Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), to the Internet Service Providers (ISPs)/Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and transit providers. They are all working on various technologies and enhancements to their offerings and focusing on the same target; to optimize and accelerate content delivery.

The figure below provides a graphical representation of the end-to-end content delivery model today. Each player in the content delivery chain deploys their own independent optimization services and other value-added services and there is negligible-to-no interaction or cooperation across the players in deploying those services.

For example, a content provider might try to deliver video content at a higher quality than a consumer’s device is able to render, wasting bandwidth and potentially causing a less than ideal user experience. At the same time, an operator might be able to make an informed, on-the-fly adjustment to deliver that content at the optimal format, saving bandwidth and improving the quality of experience for the end user. However, this type of smart delivery can only happen through collaborative agreement. It’s therefore fundamentally important that the industry identifies better mechanisms for working together.

The Key Market Trends between 2015- 2020

We are now entering an era where all video-enabled devices will be connected, which will contribute to a tripling of IP traffic between now and 2020. This connectivity will enable consumers to realize the types of video experiences they are demanding and allow content owners, broadcasters and pay-TV services to break boundaries and drive new revenues.

Within the next five years, the Internet will become the dominant delivery medium, as the industry shifts towards OTT video. The ubiquity of mobile devices will increase further; according to Ericsson’s June 2015 Mobility Report, mobile video will grow by a staggering 55 percent each year through to 2020, representing the key growth factor in mature mobile broadband markets. 60 percent of all mobile data traffic will come from online video by 2020. This represents an opportunity for both traditional service providers (such as HBO, ESPN and Showtime) and new players (such as Hulu and Netflix) to transform the way video is presented.

The Challenges and Opportunities in Todays Market Place

In order to enable this transition, networks will need to be more scalable, elastic and primed for agile growth. The current growth in the networks is too rapid and consumer expectations are too high for traditional methods of delivery to be prolonged for a lengthier term.

New and more sustainable business models must be established. Players across the media value chain will need to become much more collaborative to ensure high quality of experience and enable the introduction of richer services that consumers are demanding. The business models will also need to be evolved accordingly in order to support profitable delivery.

Consequently, some of the largest content providers (including Google and Netflix) are now building their own CDNs and deploying caches in operator’s networks. Although this is an effective short-term solution, it is not viable over a longer period, particularly as more content providers will require similar benefits. Therefore, a co-operation between the players is a far more sustainable solution.

A Collaborative Approach and Framework

In order to counteract the enormous amount of traffic growth and rising levels of consumer expectations, it’s necessary for the industry to build a mechanism that can exchange information across the various players and be optimized to the requisite level. The figure below provides a graphical representation of how a cooperative content delivery model would look like.

This framework lays the foundation for a next generation content delivery model that is beneficial for all concerned, providing the best and most efficient service to end users.

First, it’s imperative that the exchange of relevant information is between the ISP and the content providers/Global CDNs. This will enable Network Aware Delivery (NAD) by the content providers and global CDNs, and also make the ISP’s Service Aware Networks (SAN).

Secondly,the framework must allow the user to go beyond exchanging information, enabling ISPs and operators to provide a caching service (with support for SSL offload) capabilities, allowing the content providers and Global CDNs to cache content deep within the operator’s networks.

Thirdly, the model must go beyond caching, by exposing and allowing the content providers and Global CDNs to leverage multiple operator (last mile) services such as subscriber billing, ad-insertion, Just In Time (JIT) packing and rate limiting.

By overhauling the traditional content delivery model, the entire value chain will not only be able to efficiently manage the explosion of video in networks, but also offer a unique, strategic advantage in response to a new industry landscape. As we approach 2020, collaboration will be key. Now is the time that broadband will evolve from a passive utility to the central hinge on which all new added value and future revenue streams of the media value chain are pinned.

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