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BT plans to be a super head end to all UK ISPs for Multicast TV

An interview running this week in IPTV News with Simon Orme the director of Content Services at British Telecom sheds more light on the multi-cast net


Published: 23 June, 2011


An interview running this week in IPTV News with Simon Orme the director of Content Services at British Telecom sheds more light on the multi-cast network we have been talking about from BT, which came out at the IPTV World Forum, and the Connected TV Forum.

We know that BT is offering content partners its own CDN, referred to as Content Connect, and that it will wholesale a multicast service.

Orme now makes it clear that it is trying to gain consensus among most ISPs in the UK, on codec and the variety of resolutions and expects that to be achievable, while it is less certain that a single DRM can be agreed upon. So BT envisages the launch of a service called TV Connect where its infrastructure is used to deliver every type of TV programming that is broadcast, along with lots more VoD style video, from all types of content owners. ISPs would contract with the content owners directly and BT would become the IPTV supplier for many of the UK’s ISPs if not all of them.

This TV Connect service will include a TV headend which will offer live real-time encoding of all broadcast TV content, transcoding it to H.264 encoding for simultaneous online delivery. It will include content protection, conditional access and DRM functions and enable the creation of EPGs which are different for each TV operator.

Clearly BT is not a believer in adaptive streaming, because it’s almost beyond the point where there is any point in creating a new multi-cast network, if you use adaptive streams. Multi-cast of course relies on Quality of Service guarantees for video, in other words the video remains a single quality and gets priority over other video instead of adapting the quality of the video to the state of the network. BT turned its back on multicast 8 years ago when it was planning for BT Vision, its own service. But multicast does make the delivery of video tougher at the set top end – where a multicast join and buffering has to take place, which is not the case in adaptive streaming.

BT says the vision is still 12 months away, and it hopes that the Sony inspired Ultraviolet (DECE) program will be ready at that time and can help unify DRMs, but Orme fully expects to have to support simulcast of content in multiple DRMs and gives the examples of Marlin, Windows Media DRM and Apple Fairplay, though we’re not quite sure where Fairplay fits into multicast content, since there is no such service that uses this combination, unless BT creates it.

What he is hoping to do is see the encryption layer removed from the distribution of keys (which is how all conditional access works) and use more or less the same encryption for all the content. BT sees it role as a kind of super ISP, able to store, serve and offer CDN services to other ISPs, even though it competes with them for customers, in a not too dissimilar way to how Verizon said it planned to work in the US (except that was only CDN, not multicast).

All of this has to be ready in time for next year’s Olympics and BT clearly hopes to work with the BBC in making video content from the Olympics available online in real time.


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