Private Line Transformation for Media and Broadcast Service, Operators’ New Blue Ocean Market

High-definition (HD) or ultra-high-definition (UHD) video signals are essential to meet increasing consumer demands on content and experience. Higher rates are needed to bear HD/UHD signals, which in turn drives the upgrade of private lines for media and broadcast services. Forming the network infrastructure of the video industry, private lines for media and broadcast services have many potential high-value customers that represent an untapped revenue source for operators.

From camera to screen

Not only did the 2018 World Cup keep fans glued to their screens, the event also provides a good way to show how audio and video signals arrive on the viewer’s screen from the camera lens.

Signal distribution process in Russia

Signal distribution process in Russia
       In each venue (12 in total), 37 UHD 4K HDR (15 Gbps native signals in total) cameras collected signals and communicated with the International Broadcast Center (IBC) in Moscow. This enabled public TV signals to be produced and media-oriented materials to be distributed. Russian TV stations with broadcasting rights, such as First Channel, Russia 1, and Match TV, obtained the public signals and materials for post-production, for example, editing, dubbing, and inserting ads.

This is first-stage distribution, or the contribution, of media and broadcast service signals where original video signals, live broadcasts and program photography are sent from a signal collection venue such as a stadium or TV base to the production studio. Alternatively, original video signals are distributed between multiple production studios for collaborative production. The main players are TV stations and live broadcast companies, such as the BBC and IMG studios, a production company for the Premier League.

 TV stations then distributed the completed World Cup programs to the video program aggregator and distributors, including Tricolor TV, AKADO, Rostelecom, and MGTS.

This distribution of the video and audio signals is called primary distribution. Signals are distributed from production studios, for example, TV stations or film and TV companies, to content aggregation and distribution providers such as cable TV, IPTV, OTT, and satellite providers. The main players are TV stations such as the BBC, CNN, CCTV, and Sky.

 After obtaining program content, the video distributors transcode and adapt the video and audio, and then distribute the content to subscribers.

This distribution of video and audio signals is called secondary distribution. Signals are distributed from content aggregation and distribution providers to subscribers.

For secondary distribution, the main players are multi-service operators (MSOs), telecom operators, satellite TV service providers, and OTT providers. They purchase, aggregate, and deliver content to subscribers, and generally operate self-built and self-used networks.

To achieve contribution and primary distribution, private lines and networks are built for content producers, including broadcast and TV stations. Broadcast and TV stations themselves focus on content production and lease and purchase private line and network services from third-party operators, which undertake network construction and maintenance tasks.

The contribution and primary distribution of media and broadcast service signals are oriented towards video producers and distributors. Therefore, these are the typical application scenarios where operators provide media and broadcast services with private lines or networks.

The distribution of video and audio signals from camera to screen imposes high requirements on the bandwidth, reliability, latency, and O&M automation of the transport network. Professional service providers are required to provide private line services.

Increased replacement of private lines

Currently, the data collected by cameras is generally outputted through the serial digital interface (SDI). The original video content is transparently transmitted to production studios without being compressed. Compression isn’t used because it can affect post-production and compromise the original content. Uncompressed original video content helps simplify and standardize the IT systems of production studios. However, uncompressed content results in a tenfold or more increase in the volume of transmitted data, creating huge bandwidths requirement on the entire transport network.

In addition, new video technologies are changing the way people consume media and broadcast services. From SD to HD to UHD (4K and 8K) and 360-degree panoramic VR, people expect more from resolution, frame frequency, color depth, and channel improvements.

As a leading organization in the media and broadcast industry, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) has defined video and audio signal standards. From the traditional SD-SDI to today’s mainstream HD/UHD, the video signal rate has increased from 10- to 40-fold.

Table 1: 

Standard Name Bitrate Example Video Format
SMPTE 259M SD-SDI 270 Mbit/s 480i, 576i
SMPTE 344M ED-SDI 540 Mbit/s 480p, 576p
SMPTE 292M HD-SDI 1.485 Gbps 720p, 1080i
SMPTE 372M Dual Link HD-SDI 2.970 Gbps 1080p60
SMPTE 424M 3G-SDI 2.970 Gbps 1080p60
SMPTE ST-2081 6G-SDI 6 Gbps 1080p120, 2160p30
SMPTE ST-2082 12G-SDI 12 Gbps 2160p60
SMPTE ST-2083 24G-SDI 24 Gbps 2160p120, 4320p30

SD-SDI signals have given way to 1.5 Gbps HD-SDI (720p and 1080i) and 3 Gbps 3G-SDI (1080p) signals. 4K/UHD cameras (running at a rate of 12 Gbps or higher) are becoming the go-to choice for boosting user experience.

Broadcast and TV companies are also increasing UHD programs for popular sports events and live broadcasts by using more cameras and generating more content. As a result, the volume of audio, video, and data being transmitted from venues is increasing. To transmit the Premier League, for example, BT provides private lines from 20 venues to the IMG Studio for remote production and to transmit live, uncompressed HD signals. During each game, 20 to 34 cameras are provided for the multi-angle capture of uncompressed HD video signals.

In 2017, the number of signal channels in a match venue was 24, 20 channels of HD 1.5 Gbps signals and 4 channels of 150 Mbit/s signals, up from the initial 10 to 12 channels. Total bandwidth was 30 Gbps. Thus, separate routing was needed to improve reliability, which requires 60 Gbps of bandwidth for each venue.

Broadcast copyright purchasers now expect better event signals. For example, Sky requires 4K signals and VR live broadcast for Premier League, and thus a higher network rate is required for capacity expansion.

The requirements for better SDI signal rate and user experience both necessitate an increase in the speed and capacity of WAN interconnection interfaces and also underline the need for higher SLAs for private lines. To meet these requirements, traditional private lines must be upgraded.

Larger network bandwidth:

       Traditional 10G WDM networks cannot support HD/3G-SDI or future-oriented UHD 12G/24G-SDI evolution, because 4K/8K and higher bandwidth requires a single wavelength at 100G/200G.

Higher reliability: The 99.9% reliability and robustness of DWDM ring networks lack sufficient protection capabilities. At least 99.99% is required to ensure less than 52 minutes of downtime per year.

Lower service latency: Traditional network architecture is complex, with a variety of devices. Both signal conversion and compression negatively affect E2E service latency and stability. As a result, signal distortion and damage occur, especially in live broadcasts. To ensure lossless transmission of HD video signals and cut costs, network architecture must be simplified and a transport solution that guarantees low latency and zero packet loss provided. A major player in the industry in Germany, for example, requires less than 5 ms latency to improve user experience.

Automated service provisioning and visualized O&M: Services used to be provisioned by manual connections, resulting in low efficiency, lengthy service provisioning, network invisibility, and complex O&M. SDN provides agile and automated service provisioning and flexible adjustment capabilities, which speeds up service provisioning. SDN also visualizes network resources and service performance and simplifies O&M.

Enhanced security: To ensure copyright protection and enhance content security, service-independent physical-layer encryption is provided.

Traffic growth boosts development potential

Potential high-value customers are widely distributed because every country has requirements for upgrading its private line and networks for media and broadcast service transmission. An extremely reliable transport network is required to collect content at the front end, transmit it back to the production studio, enable collaborative video production among multiple branches, and ensure back-end video content distribution and broadcasting. The market potential is huge.

       Media and broadcast service customers are widely distributed, and the blue ocean market space is huge:

− State-owned/commercial TV stations, and broadcast and TV companies

− Large-scale events, such as the Olympic Games, World Cup, European Cup, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, and Europe’s big five football leagues, are increasing the deployment of Fiber to Venue and remote production.

− Professional video and image editing and production companies Of the top TV stations that provide media and broadcast services, more than 20 national TV stations are located in Western Europe. Each TV station has a private network built to transmit outside broadcasting signals back to production studios for remote production.

Alternatively, the private network is used for WAN interconnection between multi-facility production studios, interconnection between video and audio data centers, and data archiving. Here are some examples:

− In 2016, the BBC invested £100 million and contracted BT to build private lines.

 Private lines are usually leased for a 5-to-10 year contract period and therefore offer a stable, long-term source of income.

Table 2: 

User Private Line/Network Service Provider Contract Duration Contract Period
BBC Aurora BT M&B 7 + 3 years From 2017 to 2023
BBC Vodafone 10 years The contract was signed in 2004 and expired in April 2017.
ITV BT M&B 5 years From 2013 to 2018
NPO (Netherlands) KPN 5 to 7 years From 2014 to 2019/2021

Operators can specify a minimum service life; for example, BT requires a minimum of five years in its contracts. Therefore, private lines and networks offer a stable, long-term source of income for service providers.

Operators are the main builders

Both telecom operators and MSOs are major players in the private line field.

The top telcos have provided private line services for TV stations and large-scale events; for example, BT provides private lines and networks for the BBC, ITV, and Premier League, and KPN provides private lines and networks for the NPO.

Unlike telcos that provide only private lines and networks, some MSOs can produce content. In addition to providing private line services for their own TV stations, MSOs are expanding the private line market to provide private line services for other content producers.

Examples of operators providing private lines or networks

Examples of operators providing private lines or networks

Telcos have advantages over other media and broadcast service providers in transmission resources, network and optical fiber coverage and acquisition, bandwidth cost, and network management experience. Therefore, they’re the main builders of media and broadcast private lines. As existing contracts are expiring and new bids are issued to upgrade legacy private lines to expand private line services, operators can enhance their competitiveness in solution differentiation and overall costs, develop services for customers, and provide high-quality private line and network services.

Huawei is working with German operators to build agile and flexible private lines and networks based on the OTN solution for German TV stations. The private lines feature ultra-high bandwidth, low latency, high reliability, and simple architecture.

Ofcom ensures consumers get top broadband deal

After finding around half of UK homes are on a poor broadband deal, regulator Ofcom has announced plans to boost consumer awareness.

Superfast broadband (defined as 24Mbps+) availability has reached 94 percent of premises, but there’s been less than half uptake.

Ofcom’s investigations have found consumers are often able to receive greatly improved broadband for just slightly more cost per month, or sometimes even less than what they’re currently paying.

The regulator has announced several measures to address lack of awareness:

  • Clearer information. We are proposing that, from next year, broadband companies – as well as mobile, landline and pay-TV providers – will have to tell customers about their best available deal, both when their deals are coming to an end, and every year after that if they don’t change their deal.

  • Reviewing broadband prices. We are launching a review of broadband companies’ pricing practices – examining why some customers pay more than others, and whether vulnerable customers need extra protections to ensure they get a good deal.

  • Consumer campaign. A major new information campaign and website, Boost Your Broadband, launches today. Backed by consumer champion Gloria Hunniford OBE, the Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and consumer body Which?, the website uses Ofcom data to tell people what broadband they can get in their area, and offers impartial advice on how to find the best deal today.

Broadband companies have come under fire after hiking post-contract prices up for loyal customers, sometimes up to 90 percent.

Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said:

“We’re concerned that many loyal broadband customers aren’t getting the best deal they could.

So we’re reviewing broadband pricing practices and ensuring customers get clear, accurate information from their provider about the best deals they offer.”

A website has been set-up at BoostYourBroadband.com to help demystify the broadband market and ensure consumers are getting their best deal ahead of Christmas when household demand rises.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

Italy spectrum auction looks like a cheap bit of business – RBC

A research note from RBC, the Royal Bank of Canada, suggests Italian telcos in Italy might not have overpaid that much in the grand scheme of things.

This is not to say that the spectrum was cheap, but there is consistency is the rising price of that precious commodity around the world. Italy might have looked expensive to start with, but in comparison to other markets, it is a bit of a steal.

“Italy’s auction caught investors’ attention with a high price for Mid Band 5G,” the note states. “While operators have been quick to decry this as ‘artificial scarcity’, subsequent results appear to validate the Italian result. Sweden’s Low Band was a 22% premium to Italy; while the Australian regional 10-year Mid Band was a 32% premium to Italy’s 19-year Mid Band.”

Throughout the process, the Italian government managed to trouser €6.5 billion through various auctions, around three times more than was expected at the start of the process. It seems the introduction of a fourth MNO did wonders for the governments bank account.

That said, the Italian job might not be that expensive after all. While the 200 MHz of Mid band (3.7 GHz) which sold for €0.36 per MHz/Pop, Sweden saw 40 MHz of Low Band sell for €0.68 per MHz/Pop, 22% higher than in Italy and in Australia the 10-year Mid band licences sell for US$0.54 per MHz/Pop (US$0.56 incl tax), a 32% premium to the Italian 19-year Mid band.

Compared to previous auctions, the prices are starting to increase. South Korea’s 3.5 GHz and auction totalled $3.3bn for an average of $0.19 per MHz/Pop, while in the UK, 2.3 GHz sold for £0.08 /MHz/pop and 3.4 GHz for £0.12 /MHz/pop.

Looking forward, Germany is about to begin its mid band auctions, with the government expecting to raise between €4-5 billion, as is France. Regulator Arcep has already stated it want to try and avoid replicating the expensive prices elsewhere, promising cheaper prices in return for rollout commitments. Finally, the UK will have low and mid band auctions in late 2019.

Vodafone is thought to have the highest level of exposure to the high spectrum costs, with Germany and the UK on the radar for the firm, though RBC estimates Orange will have to write a cheque for €2.1 billion, while Telefonica will have to find more than €4.5 billion for the delayed Spanish auction and the battles in South America.

Treasury ministers will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect.

Ofcom reckons we’re clueless about broadband pricing

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom thinks consumers are ill-informed about the best broadband deals and wants ISPs to help rectify that.

As with many other utilities, UK punters often don’t shop around when it comes to broadband deals and often don’t even get the best service their current ISP offers at the price they’re paying.  Ofcom thinks that’s bang out of order and wants ISPs to be a lot more proactive about communicating this stud to their customers.

It’s kind of depressing that a regulator needs to get involved in this sort of thing at all. How difficult would it be for an ISP to notify their customers of the best deals on offer once their contract comes to an end? Not only is it underhand to conceal such things, but it’s presumably in the ISP’s interest to keep their customers happy so they don’t moan, churn or harm their precious net promoter score.

Yet here we are. Ofcom is proposing new rules that will oblige all UK communications service providers to flag up the best deals to their customers when discounted deals come to an end and also annually regardless of what kind of deal they’re on. “We’re concerned that many loyal broadband customers aren’t getting the best deal they could,” said Ofcom Chief Exec Sharon White. “So we’re reviewing broadband pricing practices and ensuring customers get clear, accurate information from their provider about the best deals they offer.”

The hook in Ofcom’s accompanying press release is a factoid that only half of the country is on ‘superfast’ broadband, while nearly everyone has access to it. What’s that all about? Ofcom puts the blame squarely at the feet of ISPs, as we’ve already explored, and it certainly seems like poor form for them not to even give their customers the best service at a given price point. Surely that should happen automatically.

Having said that it shouldn’t be beyond us to shop around every now and then. “While it’s true that half the battle in finding the most suitable and cost-effective broadband deal for your household is the availability of information, there must also be the will to find a better deal on the part of the customer,” said Dan Howdle of Cable.co.uk. “Thanks to the ‘stickiness’ of bundled TV packages, physical equipment such as dishes, set-top boxes and cable installations, along with no small amount of apathy when it comes to shopping around, too many stick with what they have and as such pay more than they should.”

Just in case CSPs were thinking of brushing this stuff off, Ofcom has thrown in an extra angle around ‘vulnerable’ people to ensure that wouldn’t be a good look. Additionally it’s launching a consumer campaign called Boost Your Broadband, fronted by consumer champion celeb Gloria Hunniford and designed to make it easier for punters to shop around.

The Road to Network Configuration Automation

The fast growth in the telecom industry, not only in size and value, but also in the types and volume of traffic that goes through the networks and the complexity of the systems, has made network configuration ever more demanding on operators, because it holds the key to the quality of the network, how it is governed and operated. This is made more critical when 5G is increasingly becoming a reality. Much promise has been made about 5G’s lead use cases like enhanced mobile broadband, massive IoT, mission critical communication, etc. However, they also raise unprecedented demands on network properties, including high demand for edge computing, extremely high traffic volume, and extremely low latency. Further SDN/NFV inherently have high network configuration automation and management and demands the same from physical networks. This would need consolidation of physical network configuration and support NFV orchestration with its automation requirements.

Long gone are the days when a group of engineers sat around a table, pen in hand, agreeing on the configuration parameters, then writing a few command lines. This would work in a static network when configuration was done once and then the network was left run by these rules for a long time. With the fast-moving dynamic network of today and especially of tomorrow, these key shortcomings of manual configuration management are evidently not able to cope with the network complexity:

• It is time consuming: dynamic networks need response to issues in minutes, not hours;
• It is prone to errors: the more complex the networks get, the more likely some aspects get overlooked, e.g. some system vulnerability that may be open to attacks, or subprime performance of some network components;
• This is a piecemeal approach, attempted to configure bit by bit, while the dynamic networks need a wholesale solution, from device management, data collection and processing, to trouble detection and problem solving;
• It cannot scale or customise, as every new network setup, e.g. a new vendor’s equipment integrated, needs a new set of command scripts.

In contrast, the automated configuration management solutions can:

• Save time and cost: this is especially in cases of configuring and managing mash-up cross-generation networks supplied by multiple vendors. However, this does not mean companies do not have to invest. Long term cost, especially OPEX, savings can only be realised if service providers are ready to invest in leading automated configuration systems;
• Minimise human errors: this will become even more apparent in 5G era when the complexity will be added with slicing of network, and for most operators it will be a co-existed mix with legacy networks for many years;
• Detect and solve problems more quickly: using audit function can pro-actively detect abnormal network behaviours almost real-time, and alarm the system and respond in the amount of time it takes the system to run the automated commands;
• Easily customise: by definition, automated configuration is done by software, and can be customised based on the use case and network context.

However, in order to properly implement an automated configuration, a step-by-step approach needs to be adopted. To start with, the automation set-up needs to have an automated system backup mechanism in place, whereby provisions are defined and maintained to regularly back up all the critical parameters for system elements as well as perform version control. The set-up should also be able to alert the management system when a backup fails to initiate or complete.

The next step to implement automated configuration is to identify network parameters and analyse how they affect the security, performance, availability, and other network service factors. All these parameters and their interactions with the network components should be documented for input to the configuration solution.
The most critical step in implementing network configuration automation is to automate network auditing. The auditing system should be capable of:

• Regularly monitoring network elements;
• Estimating and warning impact on service parameters impacted by configuration changes;
• Grouping audit rules to categories to cater for increasing demands;
• Taking remedial actions when system breach happens including rolling back to the last secure configuration;
• Generating detailed breach reports

To complete the cycle of network configuration automation, the management system should also be capable of pushing out automated configuration to all the devices in the network. This is particularly meaningful when large numbers of devices are deployed in a network that all need to meet the same level of security and function requirements, for example professional mobile service, or industrial IoT networks. Again, the roll-back capability is critical so that, in case configuration is not completed on certain devices, they can be automatically rolled back to the previous functional version, instead of being left in a limbo.

The industry readiness of automated network configuration has gone way beyond blueprint on paper, and it is encouraging to see strong interest from both the supply and demand sides. On the supply side, leading technology vendors already have commercial solutions to offer, for instance the HOBS Connected Devices Management solution from TCS. The solution covers the configuration management for Telco’s as well as Enterprise networks. It has shown considerable network quality and performance improvements within months of deployment in leading Telco networks. On the demand side, more and more service providers are embracing automated configuration management, for example increasingly RFIs and RFQs are including automated configuration in their requirements. There is no surprise in the increasing enthusiasm though as we have observed that automation will enable faster deployment of new services, therefore faster time to market, and faster return on investment.

The US digital divide – does anyone have a clue what’s going on?

Depending on who you listen to the severity of the digital divide varies greatly. But with so many different opinions, how do you actually know what is going on? And if you don’t have a clue, how can you possibly solve the problem?

This topic is one which carries a particularly heavy amount of political charge, for good reason might we add, and is not limited to the US. Digital inclusion is a buzzword and objective associated with almost every nation due to the increasingly complex and embedded role digital is having in our lives. Every society should be considering strategies to ensure everyone is taken forward into the digital utopia, but the success of such initiatives is questionable.

Here we are going to have a look at the US market, but not question how successful the political administration and telcos have been at closing the gap, but whether they have the right foundations in the first place. To tackle a problem, you have to actually know what it is, and this is where we feel the industry is failing right now.

First of all, let’s start with the obvious issue. The telcos clearly favour the denser urban environments due to the economics of connectivity; providing customers the internet is an expensive job in the beginning. Not only do you have to buy the materials and the equipment, you have to process planning permission, deal with lawyers and do the dirty-job of civil engineering. But, you also to have to have the confidence customers will buy services off you. When there is such a sparse residential population in a region, it can be difficult to make the equation add up.

This is the issue in the US, and perhaps why the digital divide is so much bigger than somewhere like the UK. The land mass is substantially bigger, there are a huge number of isolated communities and connectivity tariffs are much more expensive. The problem has been compounded every time connectivity infrastructure improves, creating today’s problem of a digital divide.

But, here lies the issue. How do you solve a problem when you have no idea what the extent actually is?

An excellent way to illustrate this is with a road-trip. You know the final destination, as does everyone trying to conquer the digital divide, but if you don’t know the starting point how can you possibly plan the route? You don’t know what obstacles you might encounter on the way to Eden, or even how much money you will need for fuel (investment), how many packets of crisps you’ll need (raw materials such as fibre) or how many friends you’ll need to share time at the wheel (workforce).

The industry is trying to solve a problem when it doesn’t understand what it actually is?

The FCC don’t seem to be helping matters. During Tom Wheeler’s time in-charge of the agency, minimum requirements for universal broadband speeds were tabled at 25 Mbps, though this was then dropped to 10 Mbps by today’s Chairman Ajit Pai. Rumours are these requirements will once again be increased to 25 Mbps.

Not only does this distort the image of how many people have fallen into the digital divide, it messes around with the CAPEX and OPEX plans of the telcos. With higher requirements, more upgrades will be needed, or perhaps it would require a greenfield project. Once you drop the speeds, regions will once again be ignored because they have been deemed served. If you increase these speeds, will the telcos find a loophole to ignore them, or might they unintentionally slip through the net?

Under the 25 Mbps requirements it has been suggested 24 million US customers, just over 7%, fall into the digital divide, though this is an estimate. And of course, this 25 million figure is only meaningful if you judge the digital served customers as those who can theoretically access these products.

A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft released research which suggested the digital divide could be as wide as 150 million people. We suspect Microsoft is stroking the figures, but there will certainly be a difference because of the way the digital divide has been measured.

In the research, Microsoft measured internet usage across the US, including those who have broadband but are not able to surf the web at acceptable speeds. Microsoft considers those in the digital divide as those who are being under-served, or have no internet at all, whereas the FCC seems to be taking the approach of theoretical accessibility. There might be numerous reasons people fall into the digital divide but are not counted by the FCC, price of broadband for example, but this variance shows the issue.

Another excellent example is in Okta’s speed tests across Q2-Q3 which have been released this week. The Okta data suggests a 35.8% increase in mean download speed during the last year, ranking the US as the 7th best worldwide for broadband download speeds. According to this data, average download speed across the US for Q2-Q3 was 96.25 Mbps. This research would suggest everything is rosy in the US and there is no digital divide at all.

As you can see there is no consolidated approach to arguing the digital divide. Before we know it campaigning for the next Presidential Election will begin and the digital divide will become another political tool. Republican’s will massage the figures to make it seem like the four-year period has been a successful one, while Democrat’s will paint a post-apocalyptic image.

And of course, it is not just the politicians who will play these political games. Light Reading’s Carol Wilson pointed out Microsoft has a commercial stake in getting more bandwidth to more people so that more people can access their cloud apps and make them more money. Should we trust this firm to be objective in contributing to the digital divide debate? Even if the digital divide is narrowing, Microsoft will want to paint a gloomy picture to encourage more investment as this would increase its own commercial prospects.

The issue which is at the heart of the digital divide is investment and infrastructure. The telcos need to be incentivised to put networks in place, irrelevant as to the commercial rewards from the customer. Seeing at this bridge is being built at a snail’s pace, you would have to assume the current structure and depth of federal subsidies is simply not good enough.

The final complication to point out is the future. Ovum’s Kristin Paulin pointed out those in the digital divide are only those who are passed by fixed wireless, not taking into account almost every US citizen has access to one of the four LTE networks. Fixed Wireless Access will certainly play a role in the future of broadband, but whether this is enough to satisfy the increasingly intensifying data diets of users is unknown. 5G will certainly assist, but you have to wonder how long it will take to get 5G to the regions which are suffering in the divide today.

Paulin points to the affordability question as well. With the FCC only counting those US citizens who cannot access the internet in the digital divide, who knows how many citizens there are who can’t afford broadband. A New York times article from 2016 suggested the average broadband tariff was $55 a month, meaning 25% of the city, and 50% of those who earned under $20,000 would not be able to afford broadband. The Lifeline broadband initiative project is supposed to help here, but Paulin politely stated this is suffering some hiccups right now.

If citizens cannot afford broadband, is this even a solution? It’s like trying to sell a starving man, with $10 in his wallet, a sandwich for $25. What’s the point?

Mobile broadband might well be the answer, Nokia certainly believes a fibre network with wireless wings is the answer, though progress is slow here. Congestion is increasingly becoming a problem, while video, multi-screen and IOT trends will only make the matter more complicated.

As it stands, the digital divide is a political ping-pong ball being battered as it ducks and dives all over the landscape. But, the US technology industry needs to ask itself a very honest question; how big is the digital divide? Right now, we’re none the wiser, and it will never be narrowed without understanding the problem in the first place.

Ursula Burns officially made Veon CEO, at last

Eight months after losing its last CEO, telecoms group Veon has decided to stick with Chairman Ursula Burns in the dual role.

When Jean-Yves Charlier suddenly had his security pass revoked back in March, there was a curious silence on the matter of his replacement. That silence continued for so long that, distracted by the passing of the seasons, everyone forgot Veon didn’t officially have a CEO.

Today, what vestigial speculation there may have been was finally put to rest when Veon anointed Ursula Burns as CEO. To call this a bolt from the blue would be an exaggeration as Burns was already Chairman and had been covering the CEO role since Charlier cleared off. But sometimes these things need to be rubber-stamped.

“I am honoured to be appointed Chairman and CEO of Veon,” said Burns. “The company operates in a diverse group of markets, with growing populations and rapidly increasing smartphone ownership. This clearly presents a host of growth opportunities for Veon as we seek to build on the positive momentum that we are seeing across the business. I look forward to continuing to lead Veon towards more success and increased shareholder value.”

“The Board has been impressed with Ursula’s performance and leadership of the company,” said Veon board Director Julian Horn-Smith. “The management team are clearly working well together and focused on delivering against strategic priorities. Ursula has led Veon through a major transaction in the sale of its Italy joint venture for $2.9 billion and overseen a period of solid quarterly operational performance. We are confident that with her as Chairman and CEO there will be further improvements across the business.”

There you have it. To be fair, actually getting someone to do the job for eight months is a fairly rigorous interview process, so Horn-Smith and his fellow board member can feel pretty confident of having made as informed a decision as possible.

Fiber to the X Fundamentals

A complete overview of principles, technologies, architectures and business models for future networks

At increasing speed, we are evolving into a global digital society. This is profoundly transforming the way we live, work, learn and thrive. Fiber to the X (FTTX) will be required to offer bandwidth and low latency needed for gaming, internet, IoT, smart cities, driverless cars etc.

In this eBook you will learn about:

  • The gigabit society- history and future of fiber to the X
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UK gov approves £2.4m of surveillance gear to Saudi Arabia

The UK government has approved the sale of telecoms surveillance equipment to Saudi Arabia despite its alleged state murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Not content with continuing to sell arms to a state with a – we’ll say, “problematic” – human rights record, British ministers granted five licenses to sell ‘telecommunications interception equipment’ to the kingdom.

Political news website Politics Home uncovered the deals following Freedom of Information requests.

The three deals, worth £2.4 million, were signed off by the Department of International Trade (DIT). The department is led by minister Liam Fox, a former Defence Secretary.

A DIT spokesman told Politics Home:

"Risks around human rights abuses are a key part of our licensing assessment and the government will not license the export of items where to do so would be inconsistent with any provision of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.

All export license applications are considered on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated Criteria, based on the most up-to-date information and analysis available, including reports from Non-Government Organisations and our overseas networks."

Saudi Arabia is one of Britain’s top destinations for the export of British-made military equipment; including weapons and fighter jets. The deals have often come under scrutiny but Western nations continue to maintain the kingdom is an ally.

With the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Arabia embassy in Istanbul, alleged to have been ordered by the crown prince himself, any equipment which could be used to discover and silence critics should be of great concern.

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Countdown to Commercial Use of Operator-provided Cloud VR

In 2014, Facebook’s US$2 billion acquisition of the virtual reality hardware company Oculus brought about explosive growth in the VR industry. The market researchers institute IDC predict that the sales volume of VR/AR devices will increase from 8 million units in 2017 to 12.4 million units in 2018, reaching 68.9 million in 2022, an 800 percent rise over 2017.

Despite the positive outlook, the popularity of VR is still facing challenges. For example:

Host VR devices that deliver a good experience are prohibitively expensive for the average person.
Head-mounted displays (HMDs) aren’t comfortable due to weight and other problems.
Cord connections degrade experience.
The VR ecosystem is disorganized, which complicates content acquisition.
Cloud VR can address these problems by transferring video storage and game rendering to the cloud. Telecom operators have E2E communication networks, mature video service platforms, and massive user bases. Therefore, they have unique advantages in providing Cloud VR services.

China Mobile Fujian: A Cloud VR pioneer

As the leading full-service operator in Fujian province, China Mobile Fujian (Fujian Mobile) focuses on customer experience to deploy high-quality communications networks, providing, for example, ultra-HD 4K video services for 4 million broadband TV users in the province. To further explore network potential, maximize the commercial value of gigabit home broadband, and extend its leadership in the network, service, and quality domains, Fujian Mobile joined Huawei and VR industry partners in launching the world’s first Cloud VR service – AND Cloud VR on July 18, 2018. This launch marked the first step of Fujian Mobile’s smart home video service into the VR era.

Cloud VR solves several problems in the VR industry, but also places higher demands on operator networks. Bandwidth of at least 200 Mbit/s and E2E network latency of less than 20 ms (fair-experience phase) are needed. Small problems on networks are easily amplified, affecting end user experience. Therefore, Cloud VR is a true test of network quality. Based on high-quality optical broadband networks and 4K video operation experience, Fujian Mobile successfully launched the world’s first Cloud VR service, bringing high-quality VR products to the home.

Major features

Cloud computing reduces costs
At present, host VR devices that deliver the best experience in the industry need to be accompanied by high-performance PCs that cost around US$2,000. In contrast, Cloud VR uses the computing capabilities of cloud platforms as a substitute for PCs. Users only need to purchase an all-in-one VR HMD for about US$300 to connect to broadband through their home Wi-Fi network and enjoy high-quality VR content. The overall cost is reduced by 70 percent to 80 percent, but the experience is just as good as on a high-end PC.

Wireless transmission is free from cable connections
The cords connecting host VR HMDs and PCs greatly interfere with user movement. Cloud VR uses 5 GHz Wi-Fi to achieve the high-speed data transmission of HMD data, eliminating the need for wires and allowing users to enjoy VR services more freely.

An aggregation platform aggregates massive content
In the past, VR content was bound to hardware platforms, and transferring content between platforms wasn’t possible. After VR cloudification, Fujian Mobile built a unified content aggregation platform and implemented software and hardware decoupling with HMDs, making the selection of VR content as simple as selecting a TV show.

Cloud VR enables VR content display on TV screens
Through collaboration between the screen-sharing modules of devices, clouds, and STBs, Cloud VR implements HMD content display on home TV screens. Users can share content in the VR world with family members at any time, meaning that VR has the potential to become the new home entertainment center, replacing TV.

E2E solution verification and optimization enable successful implementation of Cloud VR
In the world’s first operator-provided Cloud VR service, Fujian Mobile has achieved multiple technological innovations and breakthroughs in platforms, networks, terminals, content, and the last-mile connection to intelligent home networks. It has streamlined E2E service processes, and set up a complete Cloud VR technology and service system.

The collaboration of platforms, content, and terminals enables the quick rollout of a high-quality service system
Fujian Mobile uses the content distribution system and CDN resources on the existing video platform to implement fast deployment of the solution. Only some dedicated systems are developed and adapted, such as the VR video platform, VR cloud rendering platform, and VR screen mirroring system. This saves costs and accelerates service rollout. At the same time, Huawei’s VR OpenLab assisted Fujian Mobile in finding industry-leading partners, acquiring a variety of content resources and VR terminal products, and achieving high-quality service operations.

Well-designed target networks ensure a good user experience
Cloud VR services and video services are similar on the bearer network side. Therefore, Cloud VR services in the fair-experience phase can be quickly deployed by using existing 4K video networks to reduce network construction costs and protect initial investment. In the future, the networks can be further optimized if required. For Cloud VR to be used in home networks, all-in-one VR HMDs must be connected to 5 GHz Wi-Fi to ensure flexible user operations under cordless connections.

The architecture of the integrated bearer network is simplified to ensure Cloud VR service experience. Cloud VR provides video and game services based on cloud computing. To guarantee high-quality user experience of these services, HD video streams and a fast response are required, which depend on ultra-broadband and simplified networks with high bandwidth and low latency.

In recent years, Fujian Mobile has constructed a number of high-quality communications networks. Based on the network construction concept of all-optical access, flatness, and low convergence, Fujian Mobile has built a smooth and stable 4K video bearer network, and therefore quickly provisioned Cloud VR services for some users. However, according to multiple surveys and implementation results, some OLTs on the network still use switch aggregation networking, which features a high convergence ratio and complex homing relationships, and also presents difficulties in carrying Cloud VR services. Some BRASs and OLTs, and also CRs and BRASs, are connected through GE and 10GE links, which cannot address traffic growth. Therefore, further architecture simplification and link expansion are necessary in future service expansion.

Home Wi-Fi network quality needs to be improved for breakthroughs in cordless VR experience. According to live network surveys and lab tests, Cloud VR services are facing many problems and challenges on home networks. For example, 5 GHz Wi-Fi is required because 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi cannot carry Cloud VR services due to narrow frequency bandwidth. Severe adjacent-channel and co-channel interference significantly deteriorates service experience, and therefore signal conflicts must be avoided. Additionally, 5 GHz Wi-Fi devices with uneven quality make results uncertain.

To address these challenges, Fujian Mobile chose the Huawei SmartWiFi solution to achieve the last 10-meter connection. Based on the all-optical access FTTH network, the solution further improves Wi-Fi performance experience for home network terminals and achieves fiber to the home and 300 Mbit/s to the room. Moreover, a smart home networking service is provided to serve the following functions:

Detecting interference and planning channels in advance
Offering a strong independent Wi-Fi working frequency band for Cloud VR services
Solving the problems caused by coexistence of Cloud VR, Internet access, and IPTV services
As new territory for both Fujian Mobile and the entire telecom industry, Cloud VR has no mature business models. However, according to an analysis of Cloud VR, at least four types of sales revenue are possible: content revenue, broadband sales revenue, home intelligent networking service revenue, and VR HMD revenue.

They can also be bundled to carry out preferential marketing and quickly increase user numbers. Currently, the Cloud VR service of Fujian Mobile is only used by about 100 users. Fujian Mobile planned to develop 1,000 users this year, and to increase the number to 30,000 in 2019. User feedback shows they’re satisfied with such a good VR product at a US$300 price tag. Next, Fujian Mobile plans to introduce high-quality video and game content to further boost user satisfaction.

It is foreseeable that Cloud VR will become an important application that can be monetized through gigabit broadband services, with a bandwidth of 200 Mbit/s or higher, for customer groups with all-optical access.

In general, Cloud VR brings enjoyment, diverse content, and a wide variety of application scenarios to households.

Accessing the enterprise market

Cloud VR also has much potential for enterprises.
Hotels:
Competition in the hotel industry is fierce and a VR product experience could be used to show differentiated advantages. However, specialized personnel would be needed to construct and maintain VR systems for hotels, increasing management difficulties and operation costs.

Cloud VR services provided by operators can be used to implement fast deployment, so customers can enjoy high-quality VR content quickly, improving both hotel service quality and customer accommodation experience.

Education: While VR is popular in education scenarios, localized deployment is complex, making upgrades and maintenance difficult. By introducing systematic VR education content and leveraging their own broadband advantages, operators can provide simpler and more efficient solutions for schools.

With clear requirements and sufficient funds, these types of industry applications can be easily monetized and provides a focus area Fujian Mobile.