Rethinking B-RAS in an IPTV World?

A new emphasis on video in IP networks may soon demand that service providers and equipment providers take a new look at the role and placement of the Broadband Remote Access Server (B-RAS).

Here's the problem: The B-RAS device is a central aggregation point where service providers accept, authorize, authenticate, and manage Quality of Service (QOS) and policy enforcement for hundreds of thousands of users requesting broadband services. But in the past, the B-RAS was used primarily for broadband data traffic; in an IPTV world, carriers fear the B-RAS may become a bottleneck.

“IPTV is a very bandwidth-sensitive service,” says Jefferies & Co. analyst George Notter. “When the subscriber is watching IPTV and changes the channel, that query cannot go all the way to the central office and back; the risk is that video latency will occur.”

Nothing will inspire the rage of IPTV viewers like screen freezes caused by network snags. After all, we might be talking about the season finale of Desperate Housewives here -- the stakes are that high.

The B-RAS traditionally has resided at the edge of the service provider’s core network, but service providers are increasingly moving that functionality outward, away from the core, Notter says.

“You’re starting to see different approaches emerging around B-RAS. Carriers would rather have the B-RAS in the central office, but in the future the B-RAS will move closer and closer to the customer,” Notter says.

There is considerable debate among service providers and equipment vendors on the issue. The vendors fire their salvos through white papers and new product feature sets.

Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK), for instance, will tell you that the B-RAS should reside just behind the DSLAM at the local office, while others are vocal about their preference for placing the B-RAS closer to the central office.

The service providers, meanwhile, speak through their RFPs.

BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS) released its RFP for a new IPTV network last August, and the RFP both states the architectural philosophy of the RBOC, and serves as a call out to vendors to provide equipment to facilitate those ideas.

With regard to broadcast TV streaming using IP multicast, BellSouth may deal with the B-RAS bandwidth issue by not dealing with it.

“The role of the B-RAS in BellSouth’s IPTV network will probably not include a lot of video,” says Heavy Reading analyst Graham Beniston. “They want to keep lots of B-RAS capability, but they see they need much more bandwidth for high percentage usage of video on demand.”

Beniston says the BellSouth RFP may be a sort of challenge to the vendor community to come up with better answers. “I think they are throwing the challenge to the B-RAS vendors: ‘Can you handle it? Well, can you?’”

For example, the RFP suggests BellSouth may spread some B-RAS functionality over several boxes in its fiber-to-the-curb (FTTC) network. Some B-RAS capability may reside in hardened units under the street (close to the subscriber), Beniston said. Vendors, presumably, will have to address such ideas in material terms in their proposals, or suggest something better.

If the role of B-RAS in IPTV is just now being worked out in this way, what implication does this hold for the future health of B-RAS equipment vendors?

Beniston says it is neutral for vendors already entrenched in the market, while it may be bad tidings for smaller vendors trying to break in. Overall, the B-RAS market will continue to grow “moderately” because the need for B-RAS aggregation of data traffic alone is still growing, he says.

The Yankee Group sees evidence of this growth in the spate of B-RAS RFPs worldwide, leading to their conclusion that the global B-RAS market will grow at a five-year compound annual growth rate of 25 percent from 2003 to 2008, when it will exceed $1 billion.

BellSouth said in August, when it released the IPTV RFP, it would announce a winner in the next three months. The odds-on favorite to win, according to several sources, is DSLAM incumbent Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA).

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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ram.viswanathan 12/5/2012 | 12:58:03 AM
re: Rethinking B-RAS in an IPTV World? Setting aside the whole Tivo issue...

I would expect that some form of targeted, real-time ad-insertion along with a network PVR, would fit the bill. This would leave us with only the video content provider's permission to record and store the programming for a given time period during which it is available to the service provider's customers.
mcasaes 12/5/2012 | 12:58:13 AM
re: Rethinking B-RAS in an IPTV World? Humax has a Tivo+dvdplayer+DVD Recorder (for Tivo recordings).
TivoToGo is supposed to be launched in the next couple of weeks (with DRM of course), you will be able to download your media to a PC
ReplayTV has some history on that.
Hauppage has hw to do all this already (mediamvp frontend, WinTV PVR cards in a PC for backend).
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 12:58:22 AM
re: Rethinking B-RAS in an IPTV World? Personally, I love the idea of time shifting unicast instead of using mcast/bcast. What I don't see is how this model will support video production and distribution as it works today where advertising plays a significant role and where release windows and syndication must be accomodated.

On the production side, creating quality video content is very expensive particularly when compared to the production of low bw text or audio found on the web. It is predominantly the advertiser, not the consumer, that directly pays for this type of content production. The implications are that the distribution systems and biz-models serve the advertisers' needs and wants over those of the consumers. (The consumer doesn't always get what (s)he wants. Ultimatetly we get what is paid for.)

Ever ask the question why TIVO didn't integrate a DVD player and a DVD ripper? That is what many consumers desire from such a device. There is no technological barrier. TIVO would probably get sued into extinction if they did sell such a product.

PS. It would be interesting to know more about the author's service provider business such as how many customers served and what broadcasting rights have been obtained. This would help one better understand where the author's perspective is coming from.
Peter Heywood 12/5/2012 | 12:58:24 AM
re: Rethinking B-RAS in an IPTV World? Comment from an ISP that's actually deploying triple play services, who requested anonymity:

This article reminds me of something I thought about 5 years ago, when we were deploying Nortel Shasta, and at that time I saw it as a big problem.

Recently, however, I've been (re)thinking triple play, from a consumer point of view.

I see lot of ISPs offering triple play at virtually no cost over traditional plain data connections, so no increased profit in building the triple play, no hard evidence that customers actually want triple play services, and customers surely are not ready to pay anything for them.

How I see that triple play has to evolve so that you could actually bill from it: forget traditional multicast model of IP-TV. I believe that this is not what consumers want.

Consumers don't want to be tied down to preset time to watch the latest episode of stargate. I actually see that IP-TV will be unicast, with OSD channel guide with couple month worth of history stored by operator, so when you happen to have couple hours of free time, you can just surf the channel guide few weeks back and see the content you're interested it. Looking sales of TiVo etc, I think this is really what consumers would want, and in the end typically consumers get what they want.
Technically I see no obstacles, set-top boxes have the technology today, politically saving the content is huge problem and agreeing billing models with content distributors will be a rocky road.
But I belive that who ever makes the first move, can actually bill from IP-TV by building unicast based on-demand service.

It would be interesting if you as a Light Reading reporter could dig up about the profitability of the whole triple play scenario.

Right now, aside IP-TV also interesting subject might be VoIP in residential triple play. Personally I don't see profit in there either, until consumer can use same end-device regardless if the call goes via Internet or via GSM, but this will probably happen soon, as GSM phones with WLANs are popping up.

France would seem like best place to study as they have lot of triple play providers, but where typically triple play with free local calls increases price just by 5%, so consumer motivation is probably just curiosity as the price is neglible.

(I work for an ISP which currently has wholesale customers to whom we provide tripple play, and I think we're only one in our market offering tripple play, so this is not just neighbour envy:)

Dindon 12/5/2012 | 12:58:27 AM
re: Rethinking B-RAS in an IPTV World? Take a look at http://www.juniper.net/company...

Alcatel has any B-RAS? They only have DSLAM and is trying to maximize some features to charge more than plain DSLAM from Huawei...

In my opnion the only Broadband Service Router, known as B-RAS when had only PPPoE authentication, capable to support QoS, Jitter and latency control is Juniper's ERX.

Not talking about how to secure the IP Setup box and IP Phone from attacks... think about that how to secure the IP Eletronic devices at home broadband...
rbkoontz 12/5/2012 | 12:58:27 AM
re: Rethinking B-RAS in an IPTV World? Dindon,

Uh, kind of.

The only vendor claiming compliance with TR59/69 is the vendor who committed several bodies to write it in a last ditch effort to stay alive - Msrs. Copper Mtn.

I am sooorry, but they do not qualify as an RBOC or major telco supplier, so - back to the rummage heap you go! Try selling that nifty box to the IOCs prior to bankrupcy.

Another choice? Light Reading's own net.com? I wanna puke!

Redback? Barely qualifies - only through incumbency - can someone please do better???

Give me a real supplier with a real product! Think Juniper or Alcatel!

Is anyone else really winning RBOC deals these days???? Hello?

An ex-RBOC supplier
Dindon 12/5/2012 | 12:58:28 AM
re: Rethinking B-RAS in an IPTV World? DSL Forum already issued some TRs that talks about dynamic service and how to manage two way QoS.

Would suggest read TR59 and TR69...

Many vendors already published that their products support these specifications.
OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 3:29:16 AM
re: Rethinking B-RAS in an IPTV World? brookseven wrote;
Guess what, that is all nice.....take a read of how its going to be deployed at SBC and BLS. None of that will be turned on.

Got an URL that I can Read on how it is going to be deployed? To DSLAM & FTTU

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:29:17 AM
re: Rethinking B-RAS in an IPTV World?
Guess what, that is all nice.....take a read of how its going to be deployed at SBC and BLS. None of that will be turned on.

iponthebrain 12/5/2012 | 3:29:18 AM
re: Rethinking B-RAS in an IPTV World? Seven,

"Well you need someone to define the bandwidth subscription and you can call it anything you want. However, nobody is going to build it into DSLAMs"

Understand your perspective but times have changed. Already built-in....


The Alcatel 7302 ISAM is a key step in Alcatel's strategy to enable user-centric broadband services. Its unique IP features allow operators to bring service intelligence in the network closer to the user. This will allow them to ensure a better user experience, faster new service initialization and effective service networking as part of the end-to-end Alcatel IP solution.

Intelligent service forwarding modes for secure deployment of broadband services over Ethernet aggregation through centralized broadband remote access server (BRAS) or distributed service edge (point-to-point protocol termination in the DSLAM, DHCP Relay, etc.).
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