nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

Scaling the Internet to primetime: how everyone can benefit

Can the Internet scale to primetime viewing audiences? The accepted wisdom is that it cannot. Indeed, as it stands today, ISPs would have to increase their video capacity 15 times over current limits if everyone decided to watch primetime on broadband. However, as the new free white paper from nScreenMedia points out, a liberal dose of caching will make Internet provider video look better, save ISPs from expensive upgrades, and might just earn a little extra revenue as well!

According to the new white paper “Handling the Explosion of Online Video: Why Caching is the Key to Containing Costs,” the way online video is delivered is very wasteful. The majority of video traffic on an ISPs network comes from a few very popular videos. From the latest YouTube sensation to the 100M dash finals in the Olympics, many people are watching exactly the same thing again and again. Yet for every view, more broadband bandwidth is used.

This wasteful approach to video distribution is beginning to cause problems for ISPs. With Netflix’ 30M subscribers using the service for 1 hour and 22 minutes a day, the company already absorbs a reported 33% of network bandwidth at primetime. With Hulu and Amazon both growing fast and new web video services announcing daily, the problem is about to get a lot worse.

The increasing use of mobile devices is exacerbating the problem. Community viewing on a single TV is giving way to personal viewing. In the near future, this means at primetime everyone within a home could be watching their own show at the same time.

According to the white paper, to support primetime audiences ISPs need to be prepared to increase video bandwidth capabilities to 15 times greater than today. These upgrades are incredibly expensive. Consider a 1 million subscriber ISP with 20% of users streaming shows on Netflix during primetime. The ISP must pay $1M a month for the bandwidth to bring these Netflix streams into its network from the Internet! Upgrades to routers and switches within the network likely will be many times more expensive than this.

The truth is, however, that much of these costs can be avoided by ISPs. Simply storing the popular videos in and around their network and streaming them to users from these video “caches” will dramatically reduce the costs of network upgrades.

The white paper discusses two approaches to caching and their likely impact on ISPs, content providers and video consumers. Partner caches (p-cache) are provided to ISPs by video providers like Netflix. Transparent caches (t-cache) are purchased by ISPs themselves. An example of a t-cache is Qwilt’s QB series. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, though only t-cache has the potential to actually earn ISPs new revenue.

If you are a content provider, ISP or streaming media infrastructure provider you need to read the free white paper “Handling the Explosion of Online Video: Why Caching is the Key to Containing Costs.” It explains how everyone benefits from caching, and why it is an essential component in helping the Internet scale to primetime audiences.

Why it matters
With the growth in online streaming and mobile devices, before long the Internet will need to scale to primetime audiences.

With the current methods for online video delivery, ISPs will have to spend a great deal of money to upgrade their networks to handle the load.

Caching will reduce the amount ISPs must spend for these upgrades, and create a better experience for online video viewers.


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