Video services

Apple HLS, HTML5 Stream to Top

Apple's HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) tops the list of streaming video protocols that service providers favor for delivering over-the-top (OTT) video. But HTML5 and the new MPEG-DASH standard are gaining traction with carriers as well.

Those are some of the headline results from a new study conducted by Infonetics Research. The worldwide study looked at the technologies, services, features and apps that network operators are seeking in IP-based set-top boxes.

Infonetics found that Apple's proprietary HLS protocol scored the highest with operators delivering OTT video, followed by the open HTML5 standard. Two-thirds of respondents ranked HLS support as very important, while 56 percent ranked HTML5 the same way. No other video streaming protocol came close.

Jeff Heynen, principal analyst for broadband access and pay TV at Infonetics and author of the report, says he expects HTML5 to continue gaining market momentum, "especially if the W3C adds new security features." He sees such strong potential in HTML5 because "it can scale quickly across multiple platforms and has already gained the support of Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft , Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and LinkedIn".

Moreover, the Infonetics survey found growing support among carriers for the new MPEG-DASH video codec open standard, particularly in North America and Europe. "As good as overarching industry standards have obviously sounded, there's always vendor lock-in," Heynen says. "But ultimately there's a lot of momentum behind MPEG-DASH."

Carriers participating in the survey rated video on demand, OTT/broadband video, remote programming via tablets and other mobile devices and whole-home DVR as the most important apps for IP set-tops. An overwhelming 94 percent named VoD, with remote programming, OTT video and whole-home DVRs drawing votes from 61 percent, 61 percent and 50 percent of respondents, respectively.

IPTV operators ranked 802.11g as the leading Wi-Fi technology for IP set-tops today. But they expressed the need for newer Wi-Fi versions that can power wireless streaming of HD content, such as 802.11n dual-mode and 802.11n MIMO. About half of the respondents said they would require 802.11n dual-mode in their IP boxes by next year.

Unlike some of their rival cable operators, most carriers don't intend to add video transcoding to their IP set-tops by next year. Instead, many are counting on doing the transcoding in their networks, not customers' homes, largely because of the additional costs of upgrading the boxes with transcoding chips.

"There’s still not a lot of consensus on how to distribute the transcoding functions," Heynen says. "The jury is clearly still out."

Similarly, only about a quarter of carriers now require equipment vendors to put QAM or over-the-air (OTA) tuners in their IP set-tops. That differs markedly from most cable operators, who are showing strong interest in hybrid IP/QAM set-tops and media home gateways as they upgrade to IP video delivery.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading
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