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Balancing last-mile bandwidth demands: Azuki & LG can help

One of the biggest headaches for MSOs is balancing the competing last-mile bandwidth demands of services. As consumers spend more time watching video on their connected devices, their demand for faster broadband increases. Unfortunately, there is only so much operators can do to satisfy this demand. Azuki Systems Media Platform is targeted at operators to help them with this thorny problem. Until now, however, the company didn’t have a good solution to deliver to the TV. Today, the company announced integration with a new “Android Stick” IP stb being produced by LG, which gives them the all-important TV connection.

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Moving services to IP provides flexibility

The problem operators have in managing bandwidth is a little like the government has managing the budget. So much money is tied up in entitlement programs there is no flexibility to move dollars to where it’s needed most. Likewise, so much last mile bandwidth is bound up in analog and digital TV, and VOD, operators just don’t have any room to maneuver. Chris Mumford, Azuki’s Director of Engineering, told me that the company’s Media Platform provides operators with that needed maneuverability.Mr. Mumford explained that Azuki allows operators to move things like VOD and live TV from the dedicated bandwidth domain to the on-demand IP video world. Why does that save bandwidth? VOD and linear TV are delivered to consumers using MPEG2. Moving to the IP domain, operators can use MPEG4 h.264 and deliver the same video at the same quality in under a quarter of the bandwidth.

As well, moving VOD and some of the broadcast content to IP delivery has another important benefit. When a consumer is not using VOD or watching the channels, they consume zero bandwidth. So, the operator saves at least 75% of the bandwidth when a consumer is using the services, and saves 100% when they are not.

Can an operator move broadcast channels to IP Video? The reason broadcast channels receive dedicated bandwidth today is to minimize bandwidth used throughout the network when many people are watching. That is the big advantage of broadcast. When you move to unicast (point to point) IP delivery, every additional person watching a channel takes up more bandwidth.

According to Mr. Mumford, with so many channels available the less popular ones are often unused in many neighborhoods. Yet they continue to take up last mile bandwidth. Operators already know this, and some have installed technology called switched digital to handle it. This technology takes a group of less popular channels and only delivers them to a neighborhood when someone tunes in. Azuki’s Media Platform does the same thing, but with standard IP technology.

The fly in the ointment for Azuki was the lack of access to the TV. Integration with the LG Android Stick IP stb gives the company that needed connection. The stick stb is part of LG’s recently unveiled suite of smart set-top boxes, which the company hopes operators will use as virtual pay-TV stbs.

Why it matters
As consumers increasingly use broadband for video they will demand more bandwidth.Operators have a limited ability to transfer bandwidth to broadband from otherservices delivered over the last mile.

Shifting content delivery to IP video should liberate a lot of bandwidth which is today permanently allocated to services like broadcast TV and VOD.

Solutions like Azuki Systems Media Platform can help provide operators with the ability to reallocate services to IP and liberate a lot of bandwidth in the process.

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