Broadpeak Touts Multicast ABR for Satellite at Broadcast Asia

French vendor of CDN (Content Delivery Network), streaming and caching technologies Broadpeak is giving top billing to its multicast ABR (Adaptive Bit Rate) package for OTT delivery at Broadcast Asia 2019.

It will present multicast ABR as a means of prolonging the life of DTH services around the world by enabling them to reach connected devices within the home without need for any software or hardware changes in the clients such as laptops or smartphones.

With the help of ABR multicast technology, satellite can play a key role in the OTT environment and resolve scalability issues by enabling millions of simultaneous viewers to watch a video stream that is transmitted only once. This would be relevant then for linear services such as TV shows and news transmitted at scheduled times, as well as live sports.

ABR was developed to facilitate efficient streaming over unmanaged networks such as the Internet by adapting automatically to changes in network conditions such as congestion levels, as well as device player capabilities. But this was just unicast, which worked well for on demand content or linear services with relatively low demand, but did not scale to mass broadcast events. This led to some glitches at such times as was evident for example during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, when streaming quality was poor in such areas.

ABR multicast was developed to resolve this by transmitting such streams just once until reaching a split in the distribution path where there were multiple viewers downstream along different network links, for example in telco central offices at the edge of DSL access networks. At that point the multicast stream would be split.

ABR multicast therefore requires a transcaster to convert the unicast streams into multicast on the headend side and then back into unicast at a suitable point downstream, such as a telco central office serving multiple subscribers over DSL. However this has met some challenges, notably the fact that few operators have access networks compromising purely one physical medium and typically multiple networks including fiber, DSL, Wi-Fi and cellular. Therefore multicast ABR must be able to operate across all of these, which has spawned development of various products, one being the Unified-Multicast CDN from Expway, enabling multicast content delivery over multiple networks.

Such complications do not exist for multicast ABR over satellite, even though ABR was not intended for that medium. The point here is that it enables DTH services to deliver OTT content even though they make no use of the ABR adaptive functionality, merely functioning as a pipe. In this case the unicast streams are converted to multicast by a transcaster server in the headend in the usual way, but then are converted back to unicast in the operator’s reception device, typically a set top box. The operator must embed a software agent within these devices to perform the conversion back to unicast and so allow the OTT content to be distributed to connected devices.

At Broadcast Asia, Broadpeak will also show how multicast ABR can address scalability and latency issues for video delivery across other services, including those featuring Android based set top boxes. It will also show how multicast ABR dovetails with its nanoCDN technology designed to extend the CDN to the premise so that linear content only needs to be sent once to the set top box even when it is being viewed on multiple connected devices in the home.

In addition, Broadpeak will show its umbrella CDN with CDN diversity, allowing content providers to select the best CDN for streaming their content at a given time, on the basis of cost, availability and performance.

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