Light Reading

Carriers Prepare for Unicast Pressures

Ray Le Maistre
3/20/2013
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LONDON – Unicast traffic might account for a small percentage of current video streams on telecom networks but the volume is set to increase dramatically, affecting IPTV-related network investment decisions during the next five years. That's the view of two operator executives who addressed industry analysts and the media in London Wednesday morning on the fringes of the TV Connect event at London's Olympia exhibition halls. Ibrahim Gedeon, the CTO at Canadian operator Telus Corp., and Lukas Fluri, head of Product IT & Devices at Swisscom AG, agreed that unicast video traffic (driven by the uptake of catch-up TV services) would grow from current low levels to somewhere in the region of about 30 percent of total video traffic within the next five years. And that, of course, puts greater pressure on network capacity, planning and management. The shift from broadcast to unicast video streams has already forced Swisscom to invest in greater core network capacity alongside ongoing investment in mobile broadband, fiber-to-the-home and DSL vectoring in its wireless and fixed access networks, "all very capex-intensive projects," noted Fluri. (See Swisscom Picks Huawei for Fiber Expansion, More Swiss Get FTTH and Euronews: Ericsson Readies Swisscom for LTE.) Fluri confirmed that, in the meantime, Swisscom could manage its on-network video traffic by boosting its transport capacity and would likely not need to introduce specialist systems, such as video caching and video optimization platforms, for a few years yet. Telus, meanwhile, has built its own content delivery network (CDN), created a single metro network for all services (fixed residential, business, wireless) and invested significantly in its backhaul networks, building 10Gbit/s pipes, using Alcatel-Lucent gear, to its DSL exchanges and fiber access OLTs (optical line terminals), a topology it calls its "routed edge." For Gedeon, "the issue is not the metro, it's the last mile." And the Telus man is keen to point out that its CDN (built using AlcaLu's Velocix platform) is an operational play, not intended to create a wholesale business opportunity. "Our driving force for building our own CDN was that we needed to bring down our own costs -- we were never looking to compete with the likes of EdgeCast Networks Inc.," which is still a key Telus partner for OTT traffic management. Gedeon claims he has seen a 30-40 percent cost benefit from running his own CDN and "got payback in a year" instead of the expected 18 months. As a result of his network investments, Gedeon is currently only needing to consider video optimization deployments for Telus's mobile broadband services. The two operators have already deployed hosted/cloud video capabilities to enable consistent service offerings across multiple screens (TV, computer/tablet, smartphone) and have a key strategic focus on their video strategies for the same reason -- both face significant competition in their domestic markets from cable operator rivals. (See Swisscom Takes Video to the Cloud.) — Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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Ray Le Maistre
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Ray Le Maistre,
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3/20/2013 | 7:35:30 PM
re: Carriers Prepare for Unicast Pressures
That's an impressive return on a CDN investment - unless, of course, Telus's costs were so high that an impressive cost cut was inevitable... Also interesting that an operator such as Swisscom is currently using network capacity as its #1 approach to managing video traffic growth and thinking of caching/optimization as future tools.
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