nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

Scaling the Internet: Can home gateways help broadband handle connected devices?

Posted by Colin Dixon  
During his presentation at the CDN World Las Vegas conference this week, Jim Fagen of Pacnet pointed out that in Hong Kong the average person now owns 3 connected devices. This set me thinking that the situation will be soon be like that here in the US too. It raises an interesting challenge for ISPs. What happens when people at home diverge into personal viewing, each watching something different on their connected device? Primetime viewing could mean that there are as many individual video streams as people in the home. Most home broadband connections would struggle to support 2 simultaneous high quality video streams, let alone 4 or more.

However, salvation could be at hand by combining knowledge of the viewer with new technology many MSOs are already deploying in their networks.

Cox announced the deployment of home gateways at CES this year. In Cox’ case, the company has combined the DVR with a cable modem and home router. The device is still connected to the TV (a so-called “headed gateway”) and subscribers still interact with it as the DVR. However, home broadband access, including wireless broadband, is served from the same box.

This combination of functionality makes the home gateway perfectly placed to learn our likes and dislikes in media. It sees all the TV shows we watch and record and can use this data to anticipate what we might want to watch in the future. This is exactly what TiVo does today to recommend new shows. The gateway could also do this for OTT services like Netflix and Hulu with some co-operation from providers and consumers.

Armed with this information, the gateway can begin to reduce the number of concurrent video streams required to the home. For example, suppose Jane, a Netflix user, is in the middle of binge viewing the latest season ofHemlock Grove. The gateway could cache the next couple of episodes on the DVR hard disk (in a private area of the disk accessible only by the gateway.) Jim, her son, is a soccer fan and watches the MLS highlights every Monday evening. The gateway can cache that too. When Jane heads for the smart TV and Jim the laptop after dinner Monday, both of them are streamed their show directly from the gateway, not the Internet. Jane and Jim enjoy a great quality “online” video experience and the ISP didn’t have to serve two simultaneous streams to the home.

Double-play operators are perfectly positioned to leverage this “ultimate edge-cache” solution. As the number of connected devices in the home continues to grow along with video content on the Internet, it may not be long before they are forced to use it.

Why it matters
The explosive growth of online video consumption is causing bandwidth problems throughout broadband networks.

Leveraging in-home devices such as home gateways is a great way to alleviate some of the stress on the last mile connection.

Using such an approach is a win for all concerned: consumers get a great experience, operators reduce congestion in their network and OTT providers have happy customers.

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