MAD Perspectives Blog

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 Data at the Root of OTT Services

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Video is entertaining. Video is memorable. Video is sharable. And, video is consumed across an increasing number of distribution channels, platforms and devices. Whether it is professional or user-generated, video is inescapable. While much data is captured, analyzed and shared about how and where we consume video, none of this would be possible without the underlying network technology.

As noted by Nielsen, our behavior shifts depending on individual circumstances. The flexibility we now take for granted is dependent on the underlying distribution and delivery networks. It is dependent on network bandwidth to deliver sufficient data throughput to ensure an satisfactory consumer experience. With all the noise around big data - seemingly defined as that data that can be captured in tabular form and visualized in infographics, it is possible to forget about other perspectives on data. 

Network operators have been advancing their capabilities to deliver content via broadband, WiFi or wireless (e.g., 4G, LTE, 5G) networks. These core networks are often overlaid with incremental content delivery technology which applies complex algorithms to determine the most efficient and effective path to deliver content to endusers. The rise of OTT video services is a boon for these content delivery network (CDN) providers. For CDNs, data is representative of network bandwidth. For them, the data of the network has never been so important.

It's a double edged sword. On one side it's about enabling bandwidth to move volumes of data traffic. For example, it has been reported that Netflix represented nearly 1/3 of all internet traffic in the U.S. in 2014. Network specialist, Ciena, sponsored research from ACG Research in 2014, which reveals that the shift to OTT viewing will increase annual household bandwidth requirements by 31%. Yet, even as we anticipate the arrival of even higher quality content in the form of 4K, a recent report from Akamai indicates that the U.S. is lagging the rest of the world in its ability to offer consumers sustained broadband speeds of at least 15Mbps. In fact, while U.S. leads the Americas region in average connection speeds, it is not even in the top 10 countries globally. Enjoying OTT content is all about the data throughput of both broadband and mobile networks.

Without the underlying network infrastructure we cannot binge, we cannot download, stream or upload videos. Network intelligence has long been big business in the telecommunications industry. The ability to monitor and predict network performance is critical for even the most basic of services - voice. However, when it comes to video delivery, network capacity is just one piece of the puzzle. Other pieces include technologies to compress content into smaller packages thus requiring less bandwidth for delivery; to guarantee in-order delivery of all those data packets and avoid a degraded consumer experience; or to protect both the network itself and the content against unwanted intrusion - these are all data centric solutions. 

Tablets, smartphones, connected TVs - these are the devices driving increased bandwidth consumption. These are the alternatives to traditional TV viewing. They increase demand for bandwidth on all types of networks. Our expectation for video consumption is persistent regardless of place or device.

OTT is here to stay, but it has only been welcomed thanks to the capacity of the underlying networks. Millennials and Gen-X'ers have never known the challenges of the AOL dial-up tone. Or, the massive re-buffering of early streaming media solutions. They have the same expectations of OTT as they do of TV - when they turn it on, it works, regardless of which type of network they use for accessing content. Content delivery happens thanks to the continuous investment in network technology to support anticipated data throughput. Worried about your mobile data plan now? Just imagine what it will look like in 5 years.

What's your perspective?