CLEARWATER BEACH, FL – The August/September 2010 time period signaled the beginning of the bandwidth-consumption tsunami (fueled mostly by Netflix) that now has broadband providers seeking ways of serving their customers without going broke buying new spectrum.
“Netflix is 30 percent to 40 percent of peak traffic,” said Charlie Baker, director/Product Management at PeerApp, speaking on a panel yesterday addressing bandwidth management. “Every connected-home device today supports Netflix, and Redbox is coming.”
“Operators have the same number of subscribers and the same service offerings but, in September, there was the bandwidth ‘apocalypse,’” added Kyle Johnson, director/Product Strategy at IBBS. “Everyone is doing over the top (OTT) now, and this is bad for the small operator.”
According to Johnson, there are only three options operators have to increase bandwidth: buy more capacity (node splits, load balancing, DOCSIS 3.0, circuit upgrades), shave/optimize peak usage times (install caches of common backhaul drain locations, implement a fair-share system to protect peak quality of service [QoS]) or even out-time distribution (and this is a potentially difficult sell).
“What it all comes down to is: You need a bigger boat,” he said.
PeerApps’ Baker believes transparent Internet caching, which he says increases quality of experience while decreasing bandwidth needs, could help operators monetize OTT, and it can be deployed at several points in the network.
“You can cache 80 percent of the traffic on your network,” he explained. “You bring it in once (via monitoring the content customers seem to download the most), and then you serve it to everyone.”
Post-Digital Transition Success Stories
Two years ago, several NCTC members were on the verge of embarking on their analog-to-digital network-transition journeys. Tenzin Gyaltzen, cable television director for San Bruno Municipal Cable TV, the only muni in the San Francisco Bay area, sees success as a double-edged sword. “Our VoD streams went from 200 to 1,000 when we digitized, and we’ve pretty much reached payback,” he said. However, the operator now has “almost hit the bandwidth ceiling.”
Besides video, San Bruno also offers Metro Ethernet and IP PBX business services. The operator faces competition from telcos, OTT providers and from its fellow cable brethren (Comcast Xfinity and the TWC Roadrunner Video Store). Gyaltzen believes the company’s forward-thinking strategy, which included widening its pipe into the home, will prevail.
“The key is to move toward all-IP delivery while the current plant depreciates,” he concluded.
Massillon Cable TV started going digital in 2007, and President Robert Gessner said, “We don’t know if the strategy is working out yet. We don’t have a comparison system.” What Massillon does know is that monthly revenue per customer is up $13.
The operator’s technical and customer-service teams also went through a transition, becoming more proactive than reactive. The result? Calls are down 33 percent, even though the number of new set-top boxes has skyrocketed.
Here’s Gessner’s advice to the techs: “Beware of those signal levels at the home. Cable modems are an excellent source of data.”
– Debra Baker