Telcos face bandwidth struggle against rise of OTT video

18 Jul 2011

The over the top (OTT) video trend that will see a proliferation of online video on consumer electronic devices will represent an enormous bandwidth challenge for telcos and ISPs, a new report suggests.

IMS Research estimates that in 2010 peak bandwidth utilisation was 44pc of capacity, and that the bandwidth usage per household is forecast to increase by more than 50pc between 2010 and 2015.

“OTT video-capable devices are becoming ubiquitous, and within a few years all but the lowest-end televisions and Blu-ray players will include OTT video capabilities,” says Paul Erickson, analyst with IMS Research’s Consumer Electronics Group.

“These new devices are forecast to supplant game consoles as the dominant OTT video client over the next few years.”

IMS Research also forecasts that pay OTT subscription services will generate a cumulative US$32bn in revenues globally over the next five years, and will account for a larger part of the market than pay-per services that enable users to rent or purchase videos on an ad-hoc basis. But even so, many telcos are threatened with a bandwidth shortage.

“What we have now is a situation where the telcos are actively seeking solutions to optimise bandwidth,” adds analyst John Kendall. “OTT is here to stay, and the telcos have accepted that.”

Findings from Kendall’s recent report on the IPTV world market indicate that 75pc of IPTV households receive their television over an ADSL connection. Future proofing with fibre-to-the-home infrastructure is prohibitively expensive and time intensive. In the meantime, telcos are seeking cost-effective solutions to maximise their legacy infrastructure.

Local content delivery networks

Reducing crosstalk across copper bonded pairs using the ITU-T G.vector standard (G.993.5), introducing software solutions to maximise network logistics, and using caching in the network are all solutions that are occurring right now, as telcos position themselves to meet the rapidly growing consumer OTT demand. Even further, many operators are looking at deploying local content delivery networks (CDN) to keep their traffic local, reducing costs of bandwidth transit.

“In countries like France, where IPTV has been a great success, ADSL can be leveraged effectively due to shorter loop lines,” Kendall adds.

“In France in 2010, peak potential bandwidth demand sat at just over 37pc of network capacity. However, by 2015, that number will jump to nearly 60pc, mainly due to OTT and multiscreen video. In a country with pronounced OTT content demand like the United States, average data usage by an IPTV household will rise to nearly 25Mbps in 2015, up from the current 19Mbps. While the increase may not seem significant, IPTV households are expected to double, creating a need to address possible congestion issues.”

But IMS Research warns that bandwidth congestion challenges are more pronounced in countries with lower broadband penetration and correspondingly longer loop lines. The research firm expects Eastern European and Latin American DSL providers to struggle acutely with video-generated congestion issues.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years