Light Reading

Adaptive Streaming's Primetime Challenge

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Video service providers have become enamored of adaptive bit rate streaming as a way to deliver video to tablets and smartphones, but not everyone believes the technology will become the primary way video is delivered to the home.

HTTP Adaptive Streaming (HAS) "is not ready for primetime TV," declared Pieter Liefooghe, chief solution architect and solution line manager at the video solutions and integration organization of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), during a panel on the topic at last week's Managing & Monetizing OTT Video event in Boston. HAS is "okay for a single-stream, OTT-style of service, but as a basis of a primetime TV service, it's a challenging proposition," he added.

Adaptive streaming, which chops video files into small chunks, is used to keep a stream flowing even as bandwidth levels fluctuate. That adaptive nature, in turn, means that the requirements of the network can be relaxed (a bit) and still deliver a high-quality video, compared to more traditional IPTV systems that rely on Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) and require more stringent architectures that guarantee QoS all the way to the set-top box. (See Cable Adapting to Video's Streaming Future.)

Liefooghe said HAS can become unstable as multiple streams are delivered to the same customer, noting that the technology tends to be "too fair" in its use of bandwidth to the point that an iPad could end up getting a higher-quality video stream than the home's primary TV.

And HAS can suffer delay issues. While a traditional IPTV stream might see a 10-second delay, a HAS stream could experience delays of up to 50 seconds. That might be okay for some linear TV shows, but for live sports "that's a painful delay," he said.

Also, HAS isn't terribly bandwidth efficient. In tests conducted on a 6Mbit/s DSL line, for example, he said AlcaLu found that the highest-quality video that could be achieved with "default" technology was 1.6 Mbit/s to 1.8 Mbit/s.

But this doesn't mean HAS will never be suitable for primetime TV, as the shortcomings identified by Liefooghe relate to "out-of-the-box" HAS technology. He said, for example, that AlcaLu has identified some technologies and techniques that can be done on the routing platform and the content delivery network (CDN) to boost HAS performance enough to address some of its technical shortcomings. And he insisted there are ways to pare delays down to six seconds while still guaranteeing continuous playback.

"There's a future for HAS as the new RTP," Liefooghe concluded.

EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS), for one, would agree. Adaptive bit rate streaming serves as the bedrock of a bring-your-own-rights, multi-screen OTT video platform that it's pitching to ISPs. (See EchoStar Readies Over-the-Top Video Play.)

Adapting to the new streaming world
But adaptive streaming represents a sizable management exercise. For a deployment in Asia/Pacific for VoD and live, linear content, SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC)'s workflow system puts those streams into 24 different formats before storing them on a CDN for delivery, said SeaChange CTO Steve Davi.

And if the video itself is being broken down to chunks of two to 10 seconds each -- depending on whether it's processed using the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) or Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE) adaptive streaming platforms -- service providers will be confronted with "millions and millions of fragments" that must be catalogued and managed, said Robert Scheffler, distinguished member of the technical staff at Motorola Mobility LLC .

"But as bleak as the numbers might look, it is being done," Davi said.

Still, some service providers may want to hold off on HAS and simplify how they deliver video to IP-connected screens in the customer's home, at least initially.

Rather than slicing and dicing the video further up the network for all manner of devices, screen sizes and resolutions, Suddenlink Communications is considering the use of home gateways from Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) and other suppliers to transcode the primary video feed into formats that can run on iPads and other IP-connected devices. "We don't think that you can get away without having something at the edge of [the] network," said Eric Eby, director of video engineering at Suddenlink. [Ed. note: Eby didn't say if Suddenlink had made a commitment to buy or deploy video gateways from any particular vendor.]

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

(6)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:29:12 PM
re: Adaptive Streaming's Primetime Challenge

Here's a blog post from Moto's Gerry White that states the case for the technology, or at least some reasons why he thinks adaptive bit rate is better than multicast for IP video delivery.  I see another big vote in there for its use for second-screen apps.  Pretty clear that the technology is here to stay, despite some of its shortcomings (which apparently can be overcome)  as a service provider's primary way of delivering video to the home. JB


User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:29:11 PM
re: Adaptive Streaming's Primetime Challenge


Like all things...tradeoffs.


Any form of Unicast traffic (which ABR is) has advantages over multicast in control simplicity and also complexity (since there are only 2 endpoints you can vary the controls more easily).  Multicast is better for places where traffic is oft sent over the same set of wires.

The former might be better on DSL (especially 6 Mb/s where chances of multiple copies of the same stream are low).  Whereas, you can't imagine individual streams of say the top 20 channels on a cable system.

No need to get religious - just use the right tools for the right jobs.




User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:29:09 PM
re: Adaptive Streaming's Primetime Challenge

It's dangerous to see any technology as a panacea. Adaptive bit rate streaming won't solve everything, so the AlcaLu alerts were welcome, even if directed to some extent toward their CDN-based fixes. That said, Gerry "Dave" White pens a persuasive list of benefits. 

Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:29:07 PM
re: Adaptive Streaming's Primetime Challenge

Despite the tradeoffs, ABR seems to be a good technology for some of these secondary screens. But the good news is that nothing is static here and improvements are already being made.  While some service providers are using ABR as part of their TV Everywhere strategies, I wonder if it will improve enough that cable operators might consider out-of-market OTT plays, if they can get the rights to do so , of course, and feel comfortable with dealing with the consequences of competing with their cable brethren. But that scenario still seems to be years down the road. JB  

User Rank: Blogger
12/5/2012 | 5:29:07 PM
re: Adaptive Streaming's Primetime Challenge


<div style="color: #000000; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: #ffffff; margin: 8px;">

Yes, ABR gets talked about like it's a foregone conclusion and a panacea, so it's good to get these reality checks to recognize how it can or cannot be applied successfully. Still, the benefits do seem large and probably can be realized in the fine tuning. &nbsp;

The question I have is whether the whole IP video delivery ecosystem is going to get more fragmented and difficult or if it will coalesce into something that's more manageable. &nbsp;&nbsp;



User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:29:06 PM
re: Adaptive Streaming's Primetime Challenge

oww that was so cool

From The Founder
The comms industry is rallying to the cause of open, independent interoperability testing.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
LRTV Interviews
Top Tips for FTTH Operators

10|8|15   |   02:26   |   (0) comments

At Gigabit Europe 2015, Ventura Team co-founder Richard Jones talks about some of the key business case considerations for FTTH network operators.
LRTV Interviews
M-net Calls for FTTx Unity

10|8|15   |   03:45   |   (0) comments

At the Gigabit Europe event, Jörn Schoof from M-net, the Munich city network operator, calls for industry collaboration on fiber broadband access rollouts.
LRTV Documentaries
The Business Case Challenge for NFV

10|7|15   |   03:47   |   (0) comments

Virtual CPE is one of the early success stories for network functions virtualization, as service providers are finding flexible, programmable CPE solves a lot of logistics problems and reduces their cost. But even here, Masergy Communications faced a business case challenge, says CTO Tim Naramore.
LRTV Interviews
JT Offers Some Gigabit Lessons

10|7|15   |   4:08   |   (1) comment

Barna Kutvolgyi, managing director, Global Consumer, at JT, the incumbent operator on the island of Jersey, talks about how other service providers can learn from his company's gigabit broadband rollout experiences.
LRTV Interviews
AT&T's Chiosi on the Potential of Open Source

10|6|15   |   06:27   |   (0) comments

AT&T Distinguished Network Architect Margaret T. Chiosi talks to Light Reading's Carol Wilson about the potential for open source technology to liberate communications service providers.
LRTV Interviews
Network Security in a Gigabit World

10|6|15   |   05:52   |   (0) comments

Masergy's James Harrison talks about some of the network security and data center issues network operators need to consider as they expand their broadband services portfolios.
LRTV Documentaries
Telefónica: In Search of Virtual Simplicity

10|5|15   |   07:30   |   (0) comments

Francisco-Javier Ramon Salguero, head of Telefónica's NFV initiative, admits virtualization initially means greater complexity, but with the right abstraction layer, it is possible to create a services-driven network architecture. He explains how Telefónica's current trials and initiatives are aimed at doing that, and what his company and other carriers need to ...
LRTV Interviews
Gigabit Europe Takeaways

10|5|15   |   03:47   |   (0) comments

Participants from the inaugural Gigabit Europe event in Munich share their key takeaways from the conference.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Intel Urges Women to Take Advantage of Their Seat at the Table

10|5|15   |   4:27   |   (1) comment

Have inclusive and constructive conversations, attach a bigger meaning to your work and get involved in the cause, Intel's Monique Hayward advises women in comms.
LRTV Interviews
BT Updates on Plans

10|2|15   |   03:16   |   (2) comments

Peter Bell, CIO at Openreach, the access network division at UK incumbent BT, provides an update on the operator's trials and how Openreach is planning to deploy the broadband technology in its street cabinets.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Sonus Shakes Up SD-WAN

10|2|15   |   7:22   |   (0) comments

Sonus CTO Kevin Riley sat down with Light Reading to discuss the trajectory of the company, its SDN ambitions and why Sonus is taking a market-disruptive approve to SD-WAN.
LRTV Interviews
CityFibre's Gigabit Vision

10|1|15   |   03:18   |   (1) comment

Mark Collins, director of Strategy & Public Affairs at competitive UK city network operator CityFibre, talks about his company's plans to help build Gigabit Cities.
Upcoming Live Events
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
November 17, 2015, Santa Clara, California
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
All Upcoming Live Events
Network appliances have a strong value proposition in today's networks and will continue to do so in the NFV and SDN-enabled networks of tomorrow.
Hot Topics
M&A Speculation Swirls Around Juniper
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 10/6/2015
Cisco's Chambers Rules Out Political Bid
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 10/6/2015
Infinera Fleshes Out Its Metro 100G Story
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 10/7/2015
AT&T Gets Green Light for VoWiFi
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 10/7/2015
AlcaLu Execs Lose Out as Nokia Unveils New Top Team
Iain Morris, News Editor, 10/7/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
With so many new and exciting communications technologies now under development, it's easy to get caught up in the industry's escalating hype cycle. That's why the ...
Last week saw a big day in the 15-year history of Light Reading when Editor-in-Chief Ray Le Maistre and I were invited to interview the Deputy Chairman and Rotating ...
Cats with Phones
"What?! I'm on with Finisar about their stock price tanking" Click Here