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Small Arctic ISP Caches Netflix in New Way

Mari Silbey
12/7/2016
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In a geographic area that is closer to Greenland than much of mainland Canada, Meshnet, a service provider in Iqualuit, Nunavut, is announcing a new partnership with Aterlo Networks to give its customers something they've never been able to get before -- quality access to Netflix service.

Meshnet is integrating Aterlo's NightShift product with its Internet service to cache Netflix content locally and make it available for viewers with low-speed connections. That's an important new feature because typically in Nunavut, which is located in the Canadian Arctic, a network connection maxing out at 1.5 Mbit/s downstream sells for a monthly fee of about $80, while a connection reaching 5 Mbit/s can cost as much as $400 per month. Not only are the monthly fees exorbitant, but a basic Internet package doesn't maintain the speeds necessary to support normal video streaming. Netflix recommends a minimum 3 Mbit/s connection for standard definition video and a minimum 5 Mbit/s connection for HD video.

NightShift works by downloading and storing Netflix content on a local device overnight so that it's available for playback during the day. That makes for a much smoother playback experience, and NightShift doesn't touch Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX)'s digital rights management technology, which keeps content security intact. Unlike Netflix's new download-to-go feature, the NightShift function doesn't let users move content around outside the home, but it does make content accessible inside the home that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to stream. (See also WOW: Broadband Caps, Not 'If' but 'When'.)

"Caching high definition video streaming services for homes and users without adequate bandwidth and Internet plans is something we have passionately talked about since 2014," Aterlo marketing executive Harneet Singh told Light Reading. Indeed, Aterlo has sold NightShift at retail since 2015, offering the product for a one-time cost of $99 and an additional subscription fee starting at $7 per month. Aterlo has also signed deals with maritime customers, enabling the service on yachts out at sea. But the contract with Meshnet marks the first agreement where an ISP is including the NightShift technology as part of its broadband service.

According to Aterlo, since Meshnet first started deploying NightShift, more than 40% of Netflix traffic has moved from real-time streaming over the Meshnet network to local caching for later playback.

In some ways, the solution is similar to the work that Technicolor (Euronext Paris: TCH; NYSE: TCH) is doing with Amazon Web Services Inc. , albeit less complex. NightShift appropriates local storage for video caching, while AWS and Technicolor are pushing certain computing functions out to the home on broadband gateways. (See Technicolor Brings AWS Home to Gateways.)

Both strategies marry cloud technology with available local resources. Together they represent what is likely only the first wave of hybrid consumer services to distribute functionality more broadly across the Internet and local networks. (See also Could Netflix Someday Cache at Home?)

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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dwx
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dwx,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/9/2016 | 3:05:40 PM
Re: Caching "local" - is that at home?
Their original product worked within the home.  It would basically make content requests for you at times of the day when either bandwidth costs were lower or more bandwidth was available and then serve it locally.  It sounds like this is just being moved upstream to serve a larger community, more like a transparent proxy/cache, which can have its issues.  Also as OTT providers move towards encrypting all communication they don't work very well without comprimising user security.  Really if they contacted Netflix, they might just send them a couple Netflix cache nodes.  

 
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
12/8/2016 | 12:42:39 PM
Life in Iqaluit Nunavut
I love this video about life in Iqaluit Nunavut. They can definitely use Netflix there.



Brings new meaning to "Netflix and chill."
msilbey
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msilbey,
User Rank: Blogger
12/8/2016 | 10:58:25 AM
Re: Caching "local" - is that at home?
In this case, the caching is done in one place for the whole community and then served out to individual homes. But the NightShift technology can be used - legally - to cache directly in the home. In fact, when consumers buy the product directly, that's how it works.

As for other applications, yes, this is a great approach for remote areas and areas with satellite or other wireless broadband. Although, I would think that Netflix's new downloading option serves the same purpose where and when it's available. (Netflix doesn't make download available for all content now)
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
12/8/2016 | 3:37:38 AM
Caching "local" - is that at home?
So when you say it caches a local copy overnight - does that means it caches video on a device within the home, or just very close by?

Does it cache all of Netflix content or a chosen subset? This strikes me as being a very interesting use-case that could have application elsewhere. 
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/7/2016 | 8:11:32 PM
Speed With Security
Very interesting technology. Great to hear that these places where broadband is really expensive can enjoy the benefits the rest of us do. Speed with security, although this doesn't solve the problem of other use cases needing speed in these areas. I guess they just have to pay up. 
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