www.eurocomms.com Autumn 2007
SMS under threat?
Growth potential for
Marriage of Convenience
Marketing meets mobile
The Glue that Binds
Alan Robinson, CEO, and
Network independence for
OSS/BSS Robert Winters, CMO, of
Shenick Network Systems
Strategic Opportunity put the case for essential
IMS deployment potential test and measurement
Quality is the key
The promise of IPTV is fraught with dangers – from outages to
poor quality pictures - but effective systems test and measurement
could save the day. Co-founders Alan Robinson, CEO, and Robert
Winters, Chief Marketing Officer of Shenick Network Systems,
discuss the options with Priscilla Awde
Video on Demand (VOD), can be paid for but not
magine this: virtually the whole nation settling in to
watch the rugby world cup or European soccer final downloaded or hackers may launch a denial of service
and the television picture goes down for thir ty attack. A power outage may cause major disruption to
minutes or freezes just as the home side is about television signals.
to score a goal. It may flicker at critical times, the sound One person, at least, needs no imagining. Rober t
be unsynchronised or users unable to change channels Winters, Chief Marketing Officer at Shenick Network
quickly/efficiently. Perhaps the latest film released on Systems, instead predicts a riot should any one of these
14 e u r o p e a n c o m m u n i c a t i o n s www.eurocomms.com
The audio/visual sector is very competitive but can
provide excellent revenue streams for operators and a
way of increasing ARPU and keeping customers
all too feasible scenarios actually happen in a live IPTV risen with exposure to digital video consumer electronic
network. equipment and DVDs, which provide high quality video
Couch potatoes everywhere are increasingly intolerant and audio, making people less tolerant of degradation
of any outages and expect picture perfect television. or poor service.
Guaranteeing quality of ser vice and of individual These are just some of the challenges facing
subscriber’s experiences are, however, major and often operators and, which have also delayed roll out of
underestimated challenges for all ser vice providers, some early commercial IPTV launches. Others involve
but especially in the IPTV environment where lost more technical issues including network capacity and
packets, jitter and latency, combined with poor network scalability. Yet most can be solved by careful network
architecture and inability to scale, will all affect the planning and a serious commitment to early and
viewing experience. continual end-to-end test and measurement routines.
Driven by the twin imperatives of falling revenues “It will take operators a while to roll out television,”
from the cash cow of voice, and customer churn to Robinson suggests. “IPTV is harder to get working than
competitors, operators are now moving into higher people realised, mainly because legacy systems were
margin services. The possibilities of increasing ARPU best effort - which may be alright for broadband and
in their growing base of broadband subscribers and Internet access but is not for mission critical television
reducing churn by creating sticky applications make services. People will tolerate service outages in certain
the triple play package of voice, video and data situations, like the mobile phone sector where dropped
compelling, if challenging. In fact, operators have little calls still happen because there is no alternative
option but to add new revenue streams if they are to technology, but that is not the case in the competitive
compete effectively in the next generation world of television market.”
integrated and convergent multimedia services. Unlike the first deployment of DSL broadband
However, in doing so, telcos are moving into a highly applications in which the quality could be patchy and
competitive market already populated by established losing data packets was rarely critical, operators cannot
cable and satellite providers. Having gone through trial afford any loss or inter ference with IPTV signals but
and error, these networks are optimised for video, can must ensure high ser vice levels and minimise
carry voice and data applications and are scaleable. The transmission and technical problems. “Quality is a key
cable and satellite operators have also negotiated long differentiator for IPTV, so implementing the best and
standing agreements with major studios and other right equipment, carrying out pre and post deployment
content owners. and real-time network monitoring and testing are
Alan Robinson CEO at Shenick suggests it is difficult essential,” explains Winters. “Operators must
for telcos to get interesting content, given competition continually test the quality of subscriber’s experience
from existing players and because they are not used to and monitor ser vice assurance to deliver the best
the video/television business. “However, telcos must possible results.”
produce compelling content services at the right price Among the old but significant factors affecting service
point,” says Robinson. “The audio/visual sector is very levels are the huge number and variety of equipment
competitive but can provide excellent revenue streams installed in multi-vendor communications networks.
for operators and a way of increasing ARPU and keeping Operators are used to handling interoperability and
customers.” integration issues and ensuring equipment conforms
The best effort approach to service levels is no longer consistently to open standards, but these become
good enough in the IPTV world where packet losses have critical in IPTV deployments.
become more serious then ever. User expectations have Although it may sound obvious, operators must match
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We can set up and test the type of traffic generated
behind a typical household, which may include several
televisions, perhaps high definition TVs; one or two PCs
and several telephones
triple-play ser vices to network capabilities – a Quality of experience testing in IPTV networks must
consideration which has delayed at least one major include ser vice and transmission layers and an
European IPTV launch. Targeting the entire subscriber understanding of the interaction between them. Ideally,
base with IPTV means that telcos will at some point, testing the actual received decoded video stream
hit the scalability wall. Pre-deployment testing will help against a known good source on an end-to-end basis
determine the exact number of subscribers any given provides the most accurate results.
architecture will be able to support and demonstrate It is important to conduct converged IP tests which
how the existing network will react to application loads include layers two to seven and carry out functional,
both at launch and going forward. load, QOS/QOE limitation testing for IPTV, VoD, VoIP,
The constant challenge of transmitting next generation data applications and overall security. Passive and active
services over legacy architecture is the ability to scale, probes throughout the network are par t of on-going
and, ultimately, performance – all problems that must monitoring and service assurance programmes.
be addressed at the earliest stages of IPTV launches. “We can set up and test the type of traffic generated
“Prior to deployment operators must decide which behind a typical household, which may include several
vendor to use for IPTV; which set top boxes; DSLAM televisions, perhaps high definition TVs; one or two
equipment; network components; routers; switches; PCs and several telephones,” explains Robinson.
core transport and encoders, among others, they will “Engineers can emulate traffic in a multiple home
use,” believes Robinson. “Which vendors can do the system and create a real world environment to give
job and, when everything is put together, does it work? operators and equipment manufacturers an opportunity
What are the integration issues; the per formance to test performance limitations and quality of service.
limitations? Will the network need to be re-architected They can monitor VoIP or high-speed Internet traffic and
to provide more bandwidth or more boxes added to see what happens if there is a surge to join channels
reduce contention and handle demand? Assuring on- as users all switch programmes simultaneously – will
going quality of service is an end-to-end problem.” this clog the DSLAMs or other aggregation devices or
Fortunately, there are solutions but they require an even the video servers? Powerful laboratory equipment
early and on-going commitment to testing and measuring and test routines find bottlenecks in high load systems.
how equipment per forms, what is happening in the “Pre-deployment performance testing allows operators
network, and how the whole reacts to peaks and troughs to upgrade systems where necessary but it must not
in demand. Emulating the behaviour of hundreds or stop there. There is a constant need to monitor live
thousands of subscribers in the laborator y prior to networks and do regression tests whenever new
deployment identifies and solves problems before any equipment is added into the system. Service assurance
customers are connected. monitoring guarantees high per formance, discovers
Able to test both standard and high-definition IPTV problems fast and highlights where to go to fix them.”
and VoD down to the level of individual viewers, Testing early and often is a mantra operators ignore
Shenick’s high per formance converged IP at their peril since it is difficult to debug problems in
communications test system diversifEye 4.0 gives both live IPTV deployments. Consistent low per formance
equipment vendors and service providers the ability to increases customers’ dissatisfaction and the likelihood
test real world VoD functionality. They can determine they will move to competitors.
how networks perform under high load conditions such Effective network and application monitoring is best
as network surges. So operators can guarantee service controlled from a dedicated centre where each channel
level quality before televisions are turned on. can be checked in real time from the satellite feed into
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Operators are already concerned with content security
but there will be an increasing number of malicious or
denial of service attacks on television
the head end and through to individual subscribers. problems with scalability, contention or quality of service.
Sophisticated statistical models produce scores to Keeping ahead of developments and being able to test
evaluate the video quality. The optimum standard of for future technologies, network architectures or
ser vice may var y between operators and with what applications are part of daily life for Shenick. Winters
subscribers are watching or doing. and Robinson agree the next big shift is that IPTV will
Changing camera angles, choosing what to watch, move from the current multicast model to more of a
when, or having on-screen ‘chats’ with friends are big unicast system better able to cater for personal usage
drivers for IPTV but most are bandwidth intensive. Equally patterns. Single users will be allocated an amount of
the system must be able to handle people browsing dedicated bandwidth for applications like VOD, which
through channels without either slowing down or adversely may raise more contention/capacity problems especially
affecting the video/audio quality. if one person in the house is downloading a video
“The bandwidth required for Digital Video Recording whilst another is watching broadcast television.
(DVR), VoIP, Video on Demand (VOD), or peer-to-peer However, convergence is a reality now, they believe,
downloads is up to 30Mbps for successful deployments,” and people are star ting to look at interactive and
explains Winters. “Television must take priority but it integrated voice and video applications.
also takes up bandwidth which may have an adverse “This is still very early days for IPTV, with only around
effect on other services. It is therefore important to split two million deployments worldwide. Lots of operators
application flows over virtual LANs, otherwise channel are talking about it but it is still in the early growth
hopping, for instance, will affect QOS. Operators must stage,” says Winters.
monitor each application stream and be able to control, Security is yet another factor which must be
test and measure flow quality. Fully integrated triple-play considered. “Operators are already concerned with
packages strain networks, making it important to test content security but there will be an increasing number
for full use of all equipment simultaneously.” of malicious or denial of service attacks on television.
As telcos scale up and deliver IPTV to the mass market Hackers may jam the system to prevent people changing
they may hit bandwidth problems. Current DSL channels or generate viruses making it important to test
technologies may handle today’s requirements and firewalls and simulate the effects of such attacks, in the
deployments of up to 200,000 subscribers but operators laboratory,” adds Winters.
are likely to see performance issues when they scale up Operators are expanding the amount of bandwidth in
to millions of customers. It is then they may have to the access network either by rolling out fibre or using
extend fibre deeper into the network but fibre to the new technologies to squeeze more capacity from the
home/curb/node (FTTH/C/N), architectures are copper plant. Several different core network protocols
becoming cheaper and increasingly feasible especially in are appearing with the move to NGNs, all of which
new housing or commercial developments. Telcos may must be supported and tested. “Each vendor has their
also have to add more boxes in exchanges to reduce own way of testing and implementing standards.
the number of subscribers per unit. Alternatively operators Equipment manufacturers may work with specific
may turn to WiMax as a means of adding more bandwidth operators who have certain performance expectations
in the last mile. which must be tested. Test and measurement is all
Countries in the Far East are driving broadband about flexibility and we must be two years ahead of
deployment: in Japan and South Korea for instance deployed services,” concludes Robinson.
access speeds of 100Mbps are commonly available and
not expensive. With this available capacity there are no Priscilla Awde is a freelance communications journalist
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