Creating the vision: IPTV Service Design and Delivery


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Creating the vision: IPTV Service Design and Delivery

  1. 1. Creating the vision: IPTV Service Design and Delivery 1
  2. 2. What is IPTV? IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) is a service offered by ISPs (Communications Service Providers) in a manner similar to other services now available over IP (such as Voice over IP (VoIP) and data services (Web access). Delivered over existing communication media, it delivers the new generation of digital television. Because of the similarities with other IP services it is likely to share their broadband connection. The subscriber has a set-top box (STB) for the home TV that converts the service into standard television signals. The STB handles interactive requests for access to available media sources. Technically, IPTV may be streamed ‘live’ or available on demand outside of live time broadcasts. The IP protocols of ‘multicasting’ (IP Multicast) carry the live events and video is supported by MPEG formats. Further IP protocols such as IGMP for live TV and RTSP for VoD underline the IP nature of the service. As a bi-directional and bandwidth hungry system, IPTV needs a broadband technology, such as ADSL, from the home to the incumbent exchange. Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) has opened up this ‘last mile’ to providers other than incumbents; so now the ‘head-end’ (DSLAM) may not be the incumbent’s and the potential for greater variety of commercial offerings increases. Creating the Vision: IPTV Service Design and Delivery Times have been tough for Communication Service Providers. The landscape is intensely competitive in a market with enormous challenges. The race to deliver 3G to an unresponsive market drained profits and revenues from ‘traditional’ sources. However, there is a new opportunity that can revive fortunes, perhaps a ‘killer application’ that can remake fortunes. Its potential is so great that it’s not only Service Providers that want a slice of the market but also content providers and search engines like Google. The advent of IP driven services, although slow at first, has been dramatic. It is this layer of technologies that is opening up new possibilities. This paper looks at one of these possibilities, IPTV and the way it is set to topple our last major consumer niche, the TV, into an IP dominated world. It considers what this means for providers and, critically, what they must do to survive and grow in this new world. “It is estimated that there were 1 billion internet users globally in 2005, 1.21 billion by 2006 and 1.35 billion by 2007.” IP – The Liberator For Communication Service Providers, the Internet has changed everything. It has begun to realize its promise as the ubiquitous carrier of all communications, infiltrating every part of the communications landscape and even now usurping highly tenacious voice systems. These latter technologies have proved to be very resilient, but the uptake in Voice over IP (VoIP) has spread slowly from long-haul backbones, through 2
  3. 3. business premises to its latest incarnation in the home through MSN and Skype™. Riding an explosion of broadband connections this IP world has turned some providers on their head. The giants of recent times, such as British Telecom, have fractured, separating voice into fixed and mobile (through O2); data service revenue has leached away under the onslaught of ISPs and alternative providers. And now, as the last mile stronghold begins to fall through LLU, these once dominant players hang on as simple competitors in a market in which the traditional differentiators have changed. Everything is measured on short-term price, speed of delivery and content in a commodity market. For IPTV, the last of these, ‘content’ is the opportunity and the promise. The challenge is in the delivery. “WiFi and home networking have brought the possibilities of business computing to the domestic market and switched the focus to new opportunities – based on entertainment and leisure rather than profit and expediency…” Technological Change For so long bandwidth has been a technological bottleneck thwarting the best plans and brightest ideas. Solutions for business based on IP emerged, but the Internet prised open the domestic pipeline, forcing up expectations and then failing because of limited bandwidth. However, user frustration drives opportunity. It was inevitable that bandwidth to the home, the domestic ‘holy grail’, would grow. Broadband has arrived, creating space for a different scale and quality of traffic; home-networking has fed the hunger for connectivity, spurred on by education and its assumptions about access for learning. WiFi and home networking has brought the possibilities of business computing to the domestic market and switched the focus to new opportunities – based on entertainment and leisure rather than profit and expediency. Through this change, new streams of invention have generating energy and new initiatives. From this IPTV, has emerged, combining the two most powerful kingpins of domestic entertainment since the 1950’s: the TV and the personal computer (PC), under one potent technological umbrella. IP absorbs yet another primary communication source and reshapes it with new, potent and exciting possibilities. The triple-play phenomenon rides the surf of these technological changes. IPTV is set to be one of the largest and most powerful of these waves. ISP Challenges – Service Fulfilment And with opportunity rides a set of challenges as demanding as any faced before. The demand for new services is set to increase, relentlessly. It is no surprise to see major ISPs and incumbents re-aligning services and infrastructures to meet a new challenge. Since this is a very competitive market with tight margins, existing delivery and service creation operations spread across multiple teams, functions, and budgets are not a cost effective way of handling the potential of this business. Consolidation and economies of scale and resources are critical. In the drive to realize these economies, service providers find themselves searching for a service fulfilment solution that is integrated to the business, flexible and multi-functional. The big frameworks common to telco operations are too slow and costly to meet the need. The service provider must be responsive, creating services and delivering them with speed and efficiency. As a result, a few key requirements now dominate the thinking and research time of managers: 3
  4. 4. • Reduce the time it takes to design and create IPTV services to both residential and business customers. • Ensure there is a measurable ‘Return On Investment’ by maximizing the use of networks and personnel in the delivery of those services. • Improve overall profitability by operational efficiencies and a reduced cost of ownership These constraints: ‘time’, quick returns and overall profitability, dominate the thinking of such companies. However, the technologies that make IPTV happen are complex to provision and maintain. The ideal solution starts at the customer premises, ensuring that access networks are provisioned based on technologies such as ADSL2+, VDSL and Fiber to the premise. It sets up Virtual Circuits and VLANs on a per service/customer basis and allocates appropriate bandwidth. It provisions core services by utilizing technologies such as Carrier Ethernet (VPLS, VPWS) and IPVPN, and adjusts to Quality of Service. To accommodate the variety of user demands for high-bandwidth TV and Video services it provisions media servers and gateways. Delivering IPTV services to millions of business and residential customers is no simple task. If an integrated service fulfilment solution understands the capabilities of the underlying network and the complexities and scale of the processes required, it is going to be reviewed with interest. Since speed of response and the ability to the initiative in a fast moving market is critical to success, an ability to design, create and deliver services based on such an understanding is particulalry attractive. The market - possibilities By using a common infrastructure, some providers and broadband operators have uncovered an ‘opportunity’ to combine data, voice and TV/video, so-called ‘Triple Play’. This and the existing broadband installed base of over 100 million house holds worldwide, means the barriers to acceptance of new services, such as IPTV, have been removed. Given the combined effects of pricing, marketing and smooth delivery the continued penetration of the domestic market is projected to grow exponentially over the next five years. Alternatives to IPTV are unlikely to disappear overnight; TV distribution technologies such as terrestrial, satellite and cable have an enormous user base. Potentially, cable can be upgraded carry IPTV and Video on Demand and in the US it is usually delivered over cable using the DVB protocol. Set-top boxes are already a popular fixture in the home for satellite services and the overall move is towards digital TV. IPTV – The Potential The transforming aspect of IPTV is in its flexible control over TV content. The bi- directional nature of IPTV allows individual viewers to manage multiple TV broadcasts, using rewind, pause and interactive services typical of satellite providers such as Sky™. It is also an ideal platform for the latest advancements in picture quality such as high- definition (HDTV) and new AVC (Advanced Video Compression) standards such as MPEG4 H.264. By evolving the set-top box, a ‘smarter’ solution will quickly emerge, interacting with other devices such as PDA's, mobile phones, and the Internet. 4
  5. 5. Although the signs are good, for incumbents, caught between alternative broadband providers and cable, the pressure is on. So for some, IPTV offers a way forward, hedging against falling broadband data and voice revenues. To compete effectively with satellite and existing TV suppliers, Communications Service Providers have got to get the cost of delivering the service to the home down to a level that gives them a chance to use their data and voice advantage. As HDTV pushes into the market and unsettles the status quo, an opportunity exists to develop and establish their consumer proposition. Anticipating its 2006 conference, the IPTV World Forum discussed the response of incumbents to IPTV growth and competition from alternative broadband providers. A dominant position in their own market enables incumbents to use their network coverage, existing customer base and deployment of broadband to sell IPTV services to their subscribers. ‘They may be late entrants to Pay TV’, it notes, ‘but they can exploit the fact that millions of TV viewers are preparing to switch from analogue to digital (due to analogue switch-off) - a process that forces households to reassess where they source their television signal.’ Although some customers already enjoy a flavor of IPTV from cable and satellite providers, it is in the migration to services based on HDTV and associated enhancements that the competitive edge lies within, especially as part of Triple-Play convergent solutions. A glance at the players and industries lined up for the IPTV World Forum demonstrates the promise of the market and how open it is becoming: telcos, broadcasters, content providers, device manufacturers, technology providers, software providers, system integrators and broadband providers are all interested partners. The Axiom Systems Approach Meeting the service fulfillment challenge is not easy. However, there are solutions in the market that are already making a difference. Built on the solid foundation provided by the AXIOSS® suite from Axiom Systems, AXIOSS® for IPTV, provides a comprehensive solution through an integrated design, creation and delivery environment that can be used by network and service architects, product managers, service operations and business managers, alike. AXIOSS for IPTV • Based around components, the AXIOSS Suite offers users a Designer Tool which can be used to manipulate coded building blocks to design and create exciting new IP services. At the same time, deliver modules, inherent within the components operate the delivery of the service to the customer. These Modules are outlined below: • AXIOSS® Order to Service manages complex monitor and control processes, their inter-dependencies and jeopardy situations for the whole IPTV service fulfillment cycle. • AXIOSS® Service Inventory manages service delivery and network operations resources, providing a modeling engine for physical and logical resources and applies business processes to their usage. • AXIOSS® Service Activation activates services, configuring network elements and entire technological domains. Pre-configured elements are available for specific network device types. • AXIOSS® Service Dashboard gives an up-to-date view of the IPTV service delivery business, including real-time analysis of orders and fulfilment cycles. 5
  6. 6. Design to Delivery - Componentization AXIOSS for IPTV includes a Design Environment for designing and testing the components that make IPTV services a reality. Once designed and tested the service is subject to a Service Creation Environment, with a focus on ease of use for product managers who can drag and drop components into IPTV product ‘containers’ and rapidly create products that define a competitive space. The demand of business volume is met through automated order capture and delivery and the interests of business managers are served through a Service Dashboard that enables them to track the progress of orders and the way resources are used. The Component Design Environment gives architects access to a comprehensive AXIOSS Component Library. This library contains a number of pre-configured elements to help in the provisioning of underlying networks. It establishes links between complex workflow processes, inventory models and network interfaces and uses pre-configured interfaces for strategic vendors such as Alcatel, Cisco, Juniper and Siemens. Another category of components addresses features such as Number, Policy and Server Management. Components describe attributes of the operation and by combining these re-usable elements, higher level layers describe complete IPTV service delivery processes. At this point maintenance costs start to fall and speed of creation and testing means the time-to-market increases dramatically. Service Creation and Delivery Once designed and published, IPTV products are quick and easy to produce. Business processes are simplified and product managers are insulated from the complexities of underlying networks. Because of network awareness, the service is created with integrity, prompting for correct service elements and geographical considerations. Services are linked to customers, bridging the abstracts of the process with the realities of revenue generation. Bringing subscribers online and generating revenues, can be implemented through an order wizard. Although a ‘wizard’, this order element can be tailored to fit a preferred business model. Operating stand alone, or as an integral part of existing CRM system, AXIOSS for IPTV manages the modification of a service and the final strip down of that customer session, to ensure resources are freed up for more business. A salutary aspect of the solution is the way automation makes a critical contribution to cost control. To achieve the same degree of control over such complexity with a bag of partial solutions would involve far longer design and creation cycles and constant fundamental modification to the solution itself. Tasks that prove costly, operationally and in terms of ‘lost’ resources, such as rollback and re-provisioning, are eliminated as concerns. For a telco designing a number of Triple Play products, mixing data, voice and TV/Video components, becomes not only possible but compelling. Market Operators Given the issues, and the demands of ideal solutions and the opportunities afforded for the more ambitious players, how far has IPTV realized its potential? A number of operators have taken this market very seriously. In the Far East, NOW Broadband TV launched in Hong Kong in 2003 and SuperSun in 2005; in mainland China, Chunghwa 6
  7. 7. Telecom launched Media on Demand (MOD). Yahoo! BB/Softbank opened in Japan. In Europe a number of operators moved to reinforce their advantage in data: Fastweb in Italy, France Telecom’s MaLigne TV, launched in 2003, now has 200,000 subscribers and 30 general and specialized channels; Kingston Interactive Television and Homechoice have emerged in the in the UK; and Imagenio from Telefonica in Spain. Vendors have started to take up the challenge at the infrastructure level, leveraging their existing capabilities and forging new alliances. Alcatel has been involved in ensuring the integration of video systems following involvement in a deal in 2004 between SBC Communications (SBC) and Microsoft for IPTV services software for to up to 18 million customers. Since then, Microsoft and Alcatel have announced a global collaboration agreement to develop an integrated IPTV delivery solution. The take-up has gathered momentum: in early 2005, Verizon agreed to use the Microsoft IPTV solution. From late 2004 Swisscom/Bluewin have run trials and Bell Canada, BellSouth, Reliance Infocomm (India) and TelecomItalia are testing the new technology with Belgacom planning a commercial service in 2005. Operators and vendors have put more than their toe in the water. Technology has its own momentum, but nothing matches the sudden burst of demand for a service that catches the imagination of the consumer. IPTV is on the edge of that step change. Public demand will find some players well positioned and other high and dry. Summary Behind the excitement and talk is the reality of generating revenue. All service providers are looking less to the provision of an access service and more to the content of that provisioned pipe for their future business. IPTV is prime content and promises so much; but for the promise to be realized, solutions must scale, services must meet the speed expectation of a consumer market and costs have to be tightly controlled. For any service provider the imperatives are clear and the benefits of introducing an integrated solution such as AXIOSS for IPTV are undeniable. With the critical success factors addressed, any player, incumbent or fledgling service provider, can make a real and lasting impact on the new world of Internet TV. IPTV - Critical Success Factors • Reduce the time to develop, test and introduce IPTV services. • Ensure order processing, inventory management and network activation systems are in place for product launch. • Maximize the return on existing network investment by using available access and core networks to deliver IPTV. • Speed up and improve the quality of IPTV order information capture. • Automate as much of the delivery process as possible to improve the scale and profitability of the service business. AXIOSS for IPTV sits between the business and the opportunity. By bringing all the critical elements together it delivers a complete end-to-end service delivery template, dramatically reducing IPTV Service delivery from months to weeks, or even days. The market is changing, there is a more diverse spread of makers and movers and the pressure has not relented. However, with the right solution, designing, creating and delivering an IPTV service is no longer the challenge. The focus switches from struggling 7
  8. 8. with technology to developing products. That is where the service provider needs to be, and with AXIOSS for IPTV, managing a rich source of revenue in a dynamic and expanding market is the reward. About Axiom Systems Axiom Systems is the leader in software for the design and delivery of wireline and wireless services for Communications Providers. The company’s AXIOSS® Suite which incorporates modules for Order Management, Service Inventory, Service Activation and a Designer Tool, provides customers with advanced solutions for new services that include IPTV, VoIP, IP VPN and Triple Play. More Communications Providers in Europe use AXIOSS for IP and broadband service fulfillment than any other vendor. Global customers include Cable and Wireless, Deutsche Telekom, TeliaSonera, Wanadoo and TDC. Privately held, Axiom Systems is headquartered in the United Kingdom with offices worldwide. For further information about Axiom Systems or AXIOSS®, please contact us at: About Axiom Systems Axiom Systems is the leader in software for the design and delivery of wireline and wireless services for Communications Providers. The company’s AXIOSS® Suite which incorporates modules for Order Management, Service Inventory, Service Activation and a Designer Tool, provides customers with advanced solutions for new services that include IPTV, VoIP, IP VPN and Triple Play. More Communications Providers in Europe use AXIOSS for IP and broadband service fulfillment than any other vendor. Global customers include Cable and Wireless, Deutsche Telekom, TeliaSonera, Wanadoo and TDC. Privately held, Axiom Systems is headquartered in the United Kingdom with offices worldwide. For further information about Axiom Systems or AXIOSS®, please contact us at: 8