Video services

Digital Video Quality: Out of the Lab, Into the NOC

How do you tell when an IPTV user is getting a lousy quality picture, or the lip sync is out, or it takes 15 seconds to change the channel? These are straightforward questions that are important to answer if you are trying to hold on to customers that have plenty of other places to get their TV and video-on-demand (VoD) content.

You could wait for the fault calls to come in and do some deep-dive tests along the content delivery chain to localize and fix the problem; or you could send an engineer out to the customer premises, armed with a battery of test equipment, and diagnose the problem that way. But these methods are not optimal: They're expensive, and by the time you have fixed the problem, you have a disappointed customer who has looked at your competitors' Websites and is planning to churn at the end of the contract.

Increasingly, service providers are implementing monitoring solutions that can identify digital video quality of experience (QoE) problems before the call center begins receiving complaints. But assessing the quality of video and the responsiveness of service transactions, such as zapping, is not easy to do. You must capture the appropriate metrics – network transport and application-layer and content-related – and combine them in an efficient way to predict what users will experience on their screen and monitor or mimic the transactions they are making.

The systems that service providers are deploying increasingly include CPE-based devices or software agents – as well as instruments in the video headend and core network – and involve greater levels of integration with service assurance and performance monitoring systems used for multiple services, not just digital video.

Video QoE is moving out of the test and measurement (T&M), pre-deployment, and rollout phase and into the operational network monitoring and service assurance phase. Vendors are recognizing this by adapting their product portfolios and partnering with companies that can get them into the network operators center (NOC), as well as in the lab.

Some, such as Bridge Technologies Co AS , Pixelmetrix Corp. , IneoQuest Technologies Inc. , and Witbe , make a virtue of focusing on the TV service lifecycle from end to end. Others, such as EXFO (Nasdaq: EXFO; Toronto: EXF) and Spirent Communications plc , have rounded out their portfolios through acquisition or partnerships. Service assurance and monitoring specialists such as InfoVista SA and Mariner are playing in this space, too, along with T&M giants such as Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A), JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU), and Tektronix Inc. .

The latest Light Reading Insider, "IPTV & Digital Video QoE: Test & Measurement Update," looks at the technical challenges involved in measuring a user's digital video QoE, comparing alternative technologies, and summarizing work on standardization. It explains how different approaches are needed at different points in the lifecycle of a digital video service and picks out some of the key trends in this evolving market. This report identifies and compares the differences between vendors, including those with T&M, service assurance, TV, and telecom heritages, and profiles 17 of the leading players in this fragmented and complex market space.

— Danny Dicks, Analyst, Light Reading Insider

IPTV & Digital Video QoE: Test & Measurement Update, a 29-page report, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Light Reading Insider, priced at $1,595. This report is available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.lightreading.com/insider.

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