Harmonizing Access Throughout the Home is Key to Cable Company Success

23 November 2016

  • North American consumer demand for bandwidth on broadband networks of all kinds is growing rapidly, but demand for upstream bandwidth is growing faster than downstream as a result of user-generated video.
  • As the number of devices and the range of content increases, the key to success for service providers will be to enable user interfaces that give consumers easy access to all their services.
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  • North American consumer demand for bandwidth on broadband networks of all kinds is growing rapidly, but demand for upstream bandwidth is growing faster than downstream as a result of user-generated video.
  • As the number of devices and the range of content increases, the key to success for service providers will be to enable user interfaces that give consumers easy access to all their services.

Sal Ternullo, Senior Vice President for Syndication Partners at Technicolor

Sal Ternullo, Senior Vice President for Syndication Partners at Technicolor

Cable companies in North America are upgrading broadband networks to cater to surging demand for video services at an increasingly rapid pace.

However, according to Sal Ternullo, Senior Vice President for Syndication Partners at Technicolor, as the range of services and the number of devices in the connected home grows, operators will need to focus on harmonizing all these services and optimizing consumers’ experience of them.

Sal, ultra-broadband has captured the imagination of service providers everywhere. Cable companies in particular have a big stake in managing the demand for higher broadband speeds. How do you see the cable industry responding between now and the end of the decade to the trends in broadband technologies and to the demand patterns you are seeing from consumers?

Ternullo: There has been pretty consistent growth in demand across the cable industry and this will not abate any time soon. We have seen 45 percent year-on-year growth for the past couple of years and that rate will most likely continue.

The cable industry I believe is well positioned to support that growth given the architecture of the networks deployed, and the evolution of that architecture into the future.

That evolution includes:

  • Adoption of DOCSIS 3.1,
  • Running fiber deeper into the network; and
  • In-node segmentation.

This means service providers can get higher speed data closer to the customer. And I think that trend is going to continue. I think cable companies can use those tools to support growth very economically and in a very targeted manner over the next ten years.

Video accounts for a lot of that demand. What are some of the key strategies emerging from the cable industry to support this critical category of content?

Ternullo: If you look at some of the announcements made recently, for example by Netflix and Comcast, the ability to enable customers to access video, either in the home or via a mobile device becomes very important.

Mobility is especially important, being able to access that content no matter where I am: in my home, in my neighborhood, on the road, or via stored video to go.

All of those consumer behaviors have really changed over the last five years and they will continue to change as the industry evolves.

So, for service providers, making content available anywhere consumers want to see it becomes really important. Whether it is content that the service provider has rights to, or content from others that the service provider enables their customers to consume.

You mentioned the great variety of sources of video content, including user-generated content. This may put pressure on not just the downstream segment of networks but also on the upstream segment. What are you views on the dynamics between upstream and downstream for cable providers?

Ternullo: Historically, there was a rule of thumb that you need ten percent of your downstream bandwidth available upstream, but that has changed as a growing portion of video content is being generated by the user.

A good example is home security systems that are backed up to the cloud. Some of these systems don’t just take snapshots of what is occurring. They actually store days or weeks of content in the cloud. So there is a lot of video streaming from the home to the cloud for storage. That’s a lot of bandwidth going upstream.

Look at YouTube and Facebook content – and all of the user generated content in general – from my computer, from my phone, or from my mobile device. That really changes the dynamic and that trend will do nothing but accelerate.

The majority of bandwidth consumption will always be in the downstream as the consumption of video increases. And Technicolor is enabling this consumption given our capabilities, in encoding, compression, 4k video, and technology such as HDR and VR.

What opportunities and challenges will that create? Does it require cable service providers to review the kind of infrastructure they are deploying, and does it have the potential to interfere with the clearly monetizable downstream delivery of video?

Ternullo: I think as user-generated content grows, you will really see the need for more upstream bandwidth. I think the cable industry is very well positioned for that trend. However, the majority of content that is consumed will continue to be downstream. That demand will continue to grow primarily driven by video consumption.

Many providers have launched DOCSIS 3.1. That technology, over time, will enable symmetrical services. So, the fundamental network architecture being deployed today by cable operators will enable them to manage that increase in upstream demand.

And if you look at deployments – such as the X1 portal from Comcast — it makes it very easy to find content that is service provider generated or generated by over the top providers.

So, companies like Comcast are creating the ability for the consumer to have a unique and compelling experience across the board.

You mentioned the user interface and the user experience. Clearly those transcend the ability to simply access content. The wireless piece also seems to be an opportunity for consumers to manage complexity that can be exploited by service providers.

How can we match the growing demand for content with the growing complexity that appears to require management even after he signal hits the home? Do you see that as an opportunity for cable companies?

Ternullo: I certainly do. I look at this way: The more complex the environment, the simpler the user interface needs to be. You really need to simplify the ability for consumers to navigate their way through that complex environment in a secure manner. Just think how many devices consumers have in their homes today versus how many they had five years ago.

I think the average consumer has about five devices in their home – I have five times as many in my home. That number will continue to grow and eventually — as we have things like smart refrigerators, smart dishwashers — all those devices will have to be managed.

Whether it is home security, home automation, the Internet of Things, my video, or my broadband, most of these will be managed by the Wi-Fi network. So the key is to ensure that these experiences are optimized and secure. In general, cable companies can provide solutions to enable customers to effectively manage this environment by utilizing technology from companies like Technicolor.

Looking forward, what do you think ought to be an area of focus for the cable service providers and what are companies like Technicolor doing to support and encourage an effective strategy for the increase in bandwidth?

Ternullo: I think it is very important when you look at increasing bandwidth to the home that you do not lose sight of the experience within the home. Technicolor has invested a great deal of resources into the consumer experience and how to improve it.

A lot of our research has been in the area of Wi-Fi, to ensure consumers can take advantage of increased bandwidth to the home. Increased bandwidth to the home cannot provide the consumer with a good experience if they have very poor Wi-Fi within the home.

At Technicolor, we spend a lot of time analyzing the impact of Wi-Fi on the consumer experience. We also do a great deal of work in the area of video compression so that content can be delivered effectively over the Wi-Fi network; a lot of work on the user interface and how that can improve the consumer experience as well.

I firmly believe the battleground of the future will not be how much bandwidth cable providers deliver to the home, but how they enable their consumers to have a compelling experience to enjoy their content and to communicate with their peers.

Technicolor is well placed to help cable companies seize this opportunity. We work in every part of the content value chain from content creation to consumption. That enables us to have a unique perspective on the consumer experience. And it is the experience that matters.

We have a great deal of expertise in video technology. We are industry experts in that areas of encoding, HDR, virtual reality and video streaming. In short, our technology enables the production of great content while making it more efficient for Service Providers to deliver that content and for their customers to consume that content.

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