The growth in over-the-top (OTT) television consumption has been nothing short of extraordinary. In the US, a survey carried out by Nielsen at the end of last year found that 2.6 million households have dropped cable and broadcast TV altogether in favour of streaming and on-demand services. That was more than double the number in 2013.
It is therefore hardly surprising that we are now seeing fixed and mobile networks vying to offer ‘quad play’ services. In the UK alone there has been a spate of recent announcements in this area. Vodafone announced that it is to launch a cloud-based TV service in 2015. BT’s agreement to buy EE; Virgin Media’s bundling of TV, internet, mobile and fixed-line services last year; and Three’s scramble to acquire O2 from Telefónica means that all of the big networks will emerge as quadplay service providers later this year, fuelling further demand for OTT television.
Whilst this is good news for the service providers (quad-play gives service providers the chance to cross-sell products to their customers), it is a potential nightmare for network managers.
Two things are certain about the delivery of video content over networks. The first is that it takes a huge amount of storage, computing and capacity to effectively deliver television OTT. The second is that consumers are extremely intolerant of TV not working as it should. Nothing gets users reaching for the off button faster than pixelated images, a stuttering screen and seconds of dead air. Service providers that are looking to provide OTT TV services need to carefully consider the likely demand and the effect this will have on network traffic. Not least because the addition of an OTT TV service has the potential to totally disrupt a network.
Despite the lucrative opportunity to sell television services, it is highly unlikely that the revenues from television will fully compensate for the potential impact on the network. So smarter thinking is required to ‘sweat’ the network assets that are available more effectively and to know the likely impact of an OTT service on the network.
This is where network automation can come into its own. Using software and applications to predict demand, model future network requirements and assess likely potential failures, is essential to proper network planning for service providers. Aria Networks has been helping service providers to achieve this, meaning more effective use of network assets, reduced capital and operational expenditure and faster, more predictable return on investment.