Amitabh Kumar
President-Technology,
Zee Network

Next Generation OTT Services – A Game Changer?

Today’s OTT services have become a de-facto mode for delivery of video and live TV to a host of devices numbering over three billion worldwide. These services are based on the use of unicast streams i.e. the receiving device controls the bit rate at which it can receive the content. When scaled to millions of users, the same content needs to be streamed to each user creating a mega traffic transport requirement. Multicast ( by using eMBMS), i.e. using the same stream for each device using UDP, could never achieve large scale success due to variable reception environments and therefore, the need for individualized reception.

In March 2018, the Digital Video Broadcasting Standardization body (DVB) published   a new protocol for Adaptive Bit Rate (ABR) Multicast DVB (Blue Book titled A176). The new protocol is based on the use of encapsulation of media files and can enable an entirely new way to deliver OTT-by using Multicast. In another theater of operations, in October 2018, the 3GPP, a standards body for mobile applications, revealed startling progress on the new standards of Television delivery possible via the mobile networks via 3GPP releases 15 and 16, more often referred to as 5G. The Multicast protocols for mobile networks previously available in 3GPP releases 8 and 9 were enhanced in Release 14 (enTV). 

In yet another arena, NexGenTV based on implementations of ATSC 3.0 standard with possibilities of direct to mobile IP delivery had been gaining momentum. These transmissions being broadcast in a traditional manner are a practical way of multicasting content without overloading the internet networks. With ATSC 3.0 stations already operational in the US, the next frontier of integration with mobile is not far behind.

The cable industry, with CableLabs specification for ABR Multicast on CATV networks (M-ABR) having been released in October 2016, has been already on top of these developments. In June 2018, a French company, Broadpeak, which pioneered the technology, had reported a dramatic growth using this technology, (called nanoCDN multicast ABR solution). A host of companies are now jumping on this bandwagon. In essence, the M-ABR delivers streaming video without the need for burning bandwidth for each user. This is more so for 4K deliveries, for example, by the company Síminn, Island.

The question today is not whether the entire OTT arena spanning across mobile, broadband and mobile will see a disruptive change – the answer is certainly Yes. They will need to make way for the new generation OTT as it will be too expansive not to do so. It will change the business dynamics for many of the internet giants like the YouTube streaming to millions of users and may lead to a new generation of channels which are multicast for subscription.

But the real question being asked is: are these only more efficient modes of delivery compared to the existing unicast OTT? It is far from being so. For example, the 5G releases 15 and 16 include virtual reality from day 1. The capability to create spaces by rendering of images and sound and their mapping over mobile or wired networks to dynamic and adaptive HTTP Streaming (DASH) are now a part of the first release. For the first time it has become  evident that the delivery networks and the end devices could be becoming more capable to display myriad types of content which the Broadcasters or OTT providers of Linear traditional  television had not been producing, at least so far.

As the world gears up for events like Olympic Games with 4K delivery and billions of simultaneous viewers, the new generation OTT will kick in across all modes of delivery. The battlefield will be spread across the internet, mobile, and terrestrial. It will be a battle of the titans but with the new weapons of the next generation OTT, as yet unseen and unfathomed.

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