Level 3 Communications and Cedexis Lay Out What It Takes to Deliver Broadcast Quality Video

How managed networks with direct interconnection can increase video QoS and viewer QoE

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There is no argument that internet video traffic is growing rapidly. Cisco predicts that global IP video traffic will be 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020, up from 70% in 2015. Findings from Digital TV Research show global over-the-top (OTT) TV and video revenues for 100 countries will more than double between 2015 and 2021, reaching $64.78 billion.

With so much video traffic going over the internet, the question is how can it be properly delivered to meet the high-quality, on-demand expectations of today’s global, mobile viewers? This was the topic of a NAB Thought Gallery webinar, “Delivering Broadcast Quality Video Over the Internet,” presented by Equinix partner Level 3 Communications and the web performance optimization provider, Cedexis.

Speakers Jon Alexander Sr., Level 3’s director of content delivery networks, and Rob Malnati, VP of marketing and business development at Cedexis, examined the customer quality of experience (QoE) versus quality of service (QoS), as well as network bandwidth and network latency challenges when delivering video content over the internet. They concluded that managed networks typically provide a better customer QoE than the “best efforts” of the unmanaged public internet.

Working with customers and partners in our Equinix Media Cloud Ecosystem for Entertainment (EMCEE™), we see firsthand how taking a direct, interconnection-first approach to delivering media content is dramatically improving QoS and viewer QoE.

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Here are some of the takeaways from the webinar that really resonated with us.

Internet video brings challenges to viewer QoE

Customers today not only demand higher quality content, but also better QoE. Maintaining consistent QoE is an extremely complex problem, given the variables that can affect it for each viewer.

The top challenges facing internet video today, include:

  • Constantly changing performance due to fluctuating congestion
  • Unpredictable demand and huge concurrency spikes
  • Unmanaged peering interconnection between the content and the viewers

One solution for greater management and viewer QoE is CDNs that cache popular content at the edge. However, as many CDNs sit on top of the internet, they can’t deliver consistent connectivity to the last mile or significant capacity in the right geographic locations.

This is where we feel direct interconnection, out at the edge of the network, between video content providers and CDNs over managed networks, via high-speed, low-latency connections come into play. Traffic fluctuations, including spikes from sudden high demand, and peering interconnections can be better managed via private connectivity than over a more unpredictable public internet.

Quality of service drives quality of experience

According to Alexander and Malnati, “QoS is the foundation for QoE,” and when QoS is not good, neither is QoE. In addition, when QoS is good, then QoE challenges can be isolated and addressed far more quickly. But they added that “tracking QoS on the unmanaged Internet demands human-level interaction” that can be both costly and time-consuming.

Managed networks for video content delivery enables greater control over both video delivery QoS and QoE, rather than relying the unmanaged internet. And there is data to back this up: Free Radar Community collected HTML5 QoS metrics from 10 video service providers, including statistics gathered during several billion video plays, which showed the following:

  • As the bitrate increased, so did the video throughput
  • As the throughput increased, the video start time decreased, as well as the re-buffering times
  • The higher the latency, the longer the video start time

In our EMCEE environments, video content, CDN and cloud providers are lowering latency and increasing available bandwidth by shortening the physical distance between each other and their customers. And in many cases, they are doing this at a lower cost. 

An interconnection-first approach improves both QoS and QoE

To optimize QOE, and differentiate themselves with their user base, OTT providers are following an interconnection-first approach in architecting their content delivery platforms. Bypassing the public internet and leveraging a managed network that provides fast, high-throughput, low-latency connectivity between CDNs and viewers can allow greater traffic management, as well as different approaches to optimizing content delivery – including deploying multiple CDNs in different geographies.

This is a repeatable practice called IOA™ (Interconnection Oriented Architecture™). Overall, it’s clear from the webinar that applying an IOA, and therefore more direct interconnection among video content, CDNs, clouds and viewers, significantly improves QoS and QoE. In addition, proximity to dense ecosystems of broadcast video partners and CDN and cloud providers enables the direct, private connections required to achieve greater throughput and lower latency.

As a regular NAB Show sponsor and exhibitor, Equinix will be highlighting its Equinix Media Cloud Ecosystem for Entertainment (EMCEE™) at this year’s NAB Show, April 22 – 27, in Las Vegas.

Read the Equinix white paper, “IOA Rolls Out the Red Carpet for Entertainment Media Cloud Ecosystem,” to learn how managed networks can enable broadcast video quality delivery.

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