Original published by Chris Frampton on LinkedIn (April 3, 2017)
At TVConnect last week, I was surprised to hear many speakers telling how they are trying to ring out the last few drops of performance from the existing CDN infrastructure! getting closer to individuals and getting better interaction. Back in the 90's the TV industry had trouble listening to talk of the internet challenging TV’s dominance. I know, I was escorted out of enough broadcaster's offices back then after telling execs and CTOs we would be watching TV online in 10 years.
Here we are in 2017 with the TV companies pushing hard at the CDN’s who are struggling to deliver the growth demanded by the new mobile device based viewer who the broadcasters need to keep close if they want to compete and survive against the new ‘upstart broadcasters', like Netflix and Amazon. But…………..
In the last few months I have had the good fortune and immense pleasure to work with Ericsson’s supported innovator; Vidscale Inc. Vidscale is a Boston based, Ericsson funded (for now), IT Company that boasts some highly talented internet technical people including CTO John Scharber with one or two commercial execs who have been able to gain the confidence of Ericsson in the USA and have created a technology that can be embedded in to the Core of National Telecoms companies and deliver content over the internet directly to the subscribers to the Telco’s broadband services.
Their's is an entirely new definition of what some CDNs call “the internet Edge”, new as in it is actually the Edge, a place that is impractical for a current ‘traditional’ CDN to reach.
But this gets so much better for content producers and telcos! When you included the mobile phone networks and their ability to control content delivery and priorities different data types across their networks. With Ericsson championing 5G and running trials with BMW recently, the capabilities of UDN technology will become crucial to the mass delivery of content to mobile mobile devices, (MMD’s) which are smart devices built in to Cars and Trucks, Vodafone lead the way with RAM mobile data back in 1991, and are still on the pulse today.
The problem for the traditional CDN’s is when they tried and failed to get in to the local exchanges of the national telecoms businesses and thier capacity growth was massively restricted. In the UK “Local Loop Un-bundling” was encouraged by OFCOM, but the CDN’s could not afford the build-out even then as cost per GB delivered had been cut so hard. The net result is that the largest audience for a Super Bowl type online audience doesn’t start to scratch the surface of what global events require to provide advertisers the interaction promised by the internet all those years ago, today's 2 or 3 million concurrent online is still laughable.
In 1999 MediaWave used WorldCom’s ‘multicast’ capabilities to deliver a concert by Robbie Williams from Slane Castle, the event was used to launch the new “SkyRocket” website for Sky. The Live venue audience was about 80 to 100 thousand at the castle. MediaWave reported 1,000,000 Online and were billed for 10,000 connections, the WordCom sales director hit the roof and wanted us to pay for all the 100,000 connections pricing WorldCom out of the streaming game and Sky ‘de-focussed’ on the internet for a while. MediaWave did a few global webcast concerts after that,, with out network build on Level3, but the cost was prohibitive (without multicast) and we just could not deliver more than 10 million audience, even now that seems to be a cap for the largest networks, but one Microsoft exec could see the potential, Eric Huggers supported us before me moved to the BBC.
So in Jan 2017 with BBC announcing that iPlayer will be the Number one online TV serviceby 2020 what are the challenges for the main CDN’s that serve the BBC and other national broadcasters?
Can the the CDN's re-invent themselves quickly enough? With the cost of content delivery going down to just fractions of a penny per Gb where is the money coming from for the CDN’s to build the additional capacity they now need simply at their own core, and how are the CDN’s going to get that additional volume of content out to viewers when the CDN does not have access to the Telco’s network, the CDN’s Edge is simply too far from the Subscriber's DSL circuit.
The last 100 meters: Better than “the Last mile”
Ericsson have been selling to Telcos around the world the very equipment that runs the local exchanges that your home plugs into to get Broadband! The exchange that delivers the internet to your house. Having direct access to this line, almost the last 100 metres of ‘the last mile', not only do Ericsson’s Partners have access to an infinitely larger audience of internet subscribers, Ericsson helped them achieved this massive scale by selling the infrastructure to the Telcos, who, incidentally, are not getting paid by the content companies or the CDNs for delivering the content that travels over it. Ericsson can reduce the per Gb cost to the Producers and share this with the Telco's, Current CDN's don't share.
Ericsson have have faster, cleaner access to the consumers and they can afford to pay the Telco to work with them in delivering the content to the consumers who are paying for the broadband service. Genuinely everyone that add value wins. In theory, the UDN can reach every subscriber directly, is claiming today to have 3.22bn directly connected subscribers worldwide and growing.
In 2000, my company MediaWave were in discussions with Intel, Compaq and Microsoft to expand our global broadcast network, but Compaq were acquired by HP, Intel sold their data-centre. So Microsoft alone with the visionary Erik Huggers had the imagination to progress the investment and we started to build a multicast network into the top data-centres globally, since WorldCom had disappeared up its own jacksie by then.
Our CTO Paul Rivers, ex of WorldCom subsid knew the need for a global multicast capability and we developed the concept of “Topological Proximity” on top of the Visual Data Corp technology reducing the number of peering agreements to nil where possible and trying never to go ‘off net’. The network was a great success.
MediaWave had delivered all the largest global webcasts by 2001 and that year we delivered the world’s first pay-per-view event from Ephesus in Turkey with Sir Elton John performing live to the world.
But the MediaWave network could never reach the capabilities that Ericsson has in its grasp, their relationships with the international Telephone Network operators overcomes the single largest challenge to the current CDN model, local loop access.
In my opinion Only Ericsson can reach the edge, the Edge is the user, the last mile is too far away and current CDN’s are not even getting close to the last mile, often the DSLAM can be 100 miles from the consumers nearest sub-exchange and the consumers DSL. The majority of good CDN’s have only a few POP’s in a country, with contention ratios that would make any large broadcast a major challenge for the telco let alone the meager capacity of the CDN trying to deliver the event.
This week at TV Connect, I heard some of the TV industries top tech directors talk about their plans for the future of their online broadcasting not only did they have limited scope to control the delivery of their content, the cost of the investment they will need to make will be prohibitive for many of their plans.
Even if they can get the content to the viewer the TV company will not be able to effectively monetise their content and will have to rely on aggregate information that is so ‘dumbed down’, about as accurate as ‘RAJAR’ it is virtually useful to the brands advertising on their networks to the extent the TV companies are relying on engagement incentives and sophisticated third party tools to track pixels inn browsers and browser ID’s, data which is actually controlled by the third parties, such as Google and YouTube so the TVco still has limited control of their viewers.
In a model where the broadcaster worked with the UDN and the Telco together, the viewer gets a premium service content flows with little if any interference from the Broadcasters storage to the viewer’s device without being ingested several times as it hits the next peering point and hops onto another carrier.
The genius of UDN is the unified nature of the now global reach that can only come from the relationships built by Ericsson over 20 years selling Telephone Exchange equipment to the largest operators. With the network that was built to deliver services for the DOT.Coms the telcos can now get a chance to share in the content revenues from the broadcasters and producers directly, the spoils will reduce the cost to the consumer increasing demand and revenues simultaneously with the pressure on the global infrastructure reduced allowing more volume and unimaginable scale.
As an aside; I spoke about the MediaWave network plans with Danny Lewin in 2001, after Apax Capital Partners introduced us. That call was on September 6th or 7th 2001 before I went to Spain. Apax were going to decide about investing on the 14th, that decision was postponed and Danny and I didn’t meet following his heroic actions and sad death on 11th September 2001.
The internet is pretty much what he built between 1998 and 2001. UNTIL TODAY.