Munish Sharma, Senior Network (Designer) Engineer, Arris India Pvt. Ltd.
As we all know, in this world nothing is as permanent as change. If any invention or technology comes, soon some new technology is ready to take the place of the old one. We all are familiar with the revolution in television technology. In India, the revolution in television or cable industry is in existence since 1994. Earlier, we were watching analog cable. After TRAI recommendation, came the digitization of cable TV. TRAI segregated India into four phases to complete the digitization. Phase-I was implemented in June, 2012. After that, till now we have completed three phases of digitization and are working for Phase-IV. Along with cable TV, the DTH services have also grown and made remarkable presence. But after this also, the revolution is still on. Nowadays, mobile phones are becoming the pocket TVs. This technology is called OTT – Over the Top.
What is OTT?
An OTT app is any app or service that provides a product on the Internet and disrupts traditional distribution. The top services are usually related to the media and communication, and generally, there is no reduction in cost compared to conventional methods of delivery.
Today, there are many companies/broadcasters/MSOs that have started their entertainment services over the cloud and these can be downloaded to the mobile phone anywhere and anytime. This way, the companies have started to expand the area or territory to acquire customers. Set-top boxes (STBs) did the revolution to gain more customers and after that OTT has entered in the war of entertainment services. In this changing world, everyone is running with time to be up to date. Broadband, Internet, and mobile data have revolutionized our life.
And right now nowhere is that more true than in the field of STB solutions for IPTV, OTT, and hybrid DVB. The brave new (well, relatively new) world of connecting television to the Internet is presenting a whole host of new opportunities – and yes, challenges – to those operating in that environment. The industry has witnessed transition from a purely IP approach to the development of hybrid smart STBs. These bring together traditional DVB with IP-based services and apps. And such developments are essential in today's maturing market. To make their operations successful and cost effective, these companies are already providing hybrid DVB to customers to meet the demands of the OTT project, innovative upgrade solutions which capture the best of traditional linear TV and combine it with the exciting – some might say, thrilling – functionalities of network PVR, VOD, catch-up TV, and third-party services.
And responsibility is definitely on the device providers, because OTT services are set to continue, and those who fail to meet the challenge – STB manufacturers or service providers – certainly fall from the shore of course; one advantage for new entrants in the market is that they can build on all development works of the last few years and can use OTT without the ownership of the network infrastructure or construction costs. Such services can be deployed globally on a very cost-effective basis, so that visitors from around the world can reach completely local and specialist channels. But whatever the scenario, smart STB platforms are essential for the advancement of today's multifaceted visual experience, which provides easy access to traditional Internet services.
Three technologies designed to alleviate OTT delivery issues are:
Adaptive bit rate formats, such as Apple HLS, Microsoft Smooth Streaming, and MPEG-Dash, which are designed to improve the quality of the user. When an ISP's network is saturated at a point where it cannot take high-quality signal, or if the bandwidth is available in the user's local network, the receiver requests a bit rate from the server. By decreasing the bit rate, ABR technology ensures that the signal can be distributed, albeit with little video quality.
OTT is another solution that can be used by the operator to improve video delivery, which deploys local cache, dedicated to unmanaged video content in their network. In this case, we are talking about content that is directly distributed by content providers as a CDN in the service, such as Akamai, Level 3, or Lamplight. Through agreements, with content providers and operators can get the right to cache their content locally in their network and to establish homologated HTTPS certificates, which is a benefit on transparent caching technologies that are available for HTTPS.
Multicast is another technique that influences live ARR delivery. For many years, the majority of OTT materials have been distributed through Unicast. Unicast is a perfectly efficient solution for video-on-demand (VOD) content, but there is a lack of use of this technology for live content delivery. Unicast requires a separate router request in the network every time, when the viewer tunes in the live content. Let's say millions of people watching live shows are together; The operator can put a huge tension on the network, with multicast; television operators can stream live content only once in the network, regardless of the number of viewers. For example, a cable operator can broadcast one of the world's largest sports event for millions of viewers in 4K, using only a few Mbps from the network.
Demands of STB Providers
To get started, there is an urgent need for those upgrades, which already include modern third-generation solutions for companies working in IPTV environment. And this means the device that supports all the major standards for both streaming and app; the first-generation IPTV was used primarily in the DVB STB with the native DVB GUI and some IPTV extensions. Second-generation networks offer embedded midware solutions with the first interactive functions such as PVR, VOD, and app custom implementation. Now, third-generation solutions allow operators and system integrators to quickly create modern and advanced IPTV solutions. These latest-generation platforms are designed for HTML5 and open standards, which means that operators have not been restricted to the proprietary STB platform. The use of an open approach allows the integration of third-party VOD applications and cloud-based services like integration, and provides full control over user interfaces and upgrades.
After this, it should be recognized that there is no need for operators to meet the service of their customers. Therefore, manufacturers should provide such units that can be easily adapted to meet unique demands. Put another way, today's STBs need to provide smart solutions and simultaneously, this segment of the media industry is growing, keeping in mind the amazing pace to create such solutions. The capacity should be as fast as possible. So, a small production cycle is necessary.
Application Required for the Running
Modern hardware platforms are designed to meet today's requirements from the same application project to the complex project requirements of demand for IPTV, OTT, and hybrid DVB services. A smart STB product line should provide the best price performance and latest technology for the most challenging IPTV, OTT, and hybrid DVB and cloud TV services. In fact, the latest solution in this ever-expanding – and innovative – area, probably for the first time, is to provide a full TV experience for television receivers on unregistered Internet lines.
The emergence of devices like smart TVs, network-enabled Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, and media streaming devices has led to the gradual merging of TV and digital video formats. The wider rise of these connected devices has gained a better viewing experience for consumers. Media inventories such as Ro Oku, Amazon Fire, and Chrome Cast provide excellent facilities at comparatively competitive prices. The emergence of OTT has resulted in improving unprecedented video stream quality in the previous broadcast model. Traditional television network providers had more production cycles, and are still upgrading to the original HD technology, while SVOD providers are offering upstream content of Satya HD, and ultra-high definition (UHD). By 2015, UAD had 7.5 percent of Internet video traffic.
In addition to offering a wide selection of classic films and new releases to its audience, SVOD providers are developing unique content even after the exclusive reserve of satellite content. Netflix is planning to invest USD 6 billion in exclusive content and will broadcast 600 hours of original programming in 2016. Amazon Prime Video has invested a lot of resources in the entire list of favorite shows, many of which have been renewed for many seasons. Netflix and Amazon are part of a large OTT contingency ecosystem that has proved to be successful. Despite this less than the stellar reception for companies such as Xbox Entertainment Studio and Redbox Instant, this trend has been warned. For VOD service providers, to navigate the dynamic digital video scenario and to survive, it requires a vision for the future and needs to deal with the fast-changing demands of customers.