Home gateway Marketplace: the path to innovation

Broadpeak’s nanoCDN™ Multicast-ABR is now available on Nokia’s marketplace

Broadpeak’s nanoCDN™ Multicast-ABR solution has just been added to Nokia’s Corteca home connectivity software suite. The principle of such marketplace is to enable ISPs to dynamically upload, remove and manage applications on their home gateways, without depending on a whole firmware upgrade of the CPE.

ISPs can thus easily deploy new added-value functionalities, including from third party companies, thereby opening up new experience to their customers and new monetization opportunities.

This portfolio of applications is typically made available in the form of containers, securing that they cannot interfere with the functioning of the device.

Broadpeak believes that opening up CPEs to a whole marketplace of applications is a major step forward in their evolution and goes way beyond the ease-of-operation aspects.

What can really make a difference is that the device becomes natively designed to receive new content and functions that are not provided exclusively by one single actor, but from an infinite number of specialists who are all invited to contribute.

These devices are, therefore, open to global contributions, which leads directly to innovation and more rapid deployment of features and services. For example, in a different domain, the iPhone’s AppStore currently offers nearly 2 million applications, which probably contributed to obtaining its “Smart” denomination and led the way to smartphones replacing our more standard cell phones in just a few years.

No cell phone manufacturer could approach this number using proprietary applications on a closed system device. We could also mention the success of Android set-top boxes which is largely due to its openness to third-party applications, leading to easier and faster addition of most demanded TV services such as Netflix or Amazon.

In these consumers devices, home gateway had remained up to recently in a blind spot. Most gateways still run proprietary and monolithic firmware, which do not welcome third-party components and therefore miss out on a wider pool of innovation, such as IoT, access control, or network optimizations from the WAN or home Wi-Fi.  

Video streaming in Home Gateways

 

It is Broadpeak’ s conviction that video streaming should also be counted as one of the most important high-value applications that can be added to home gateways, and maybe even the most important one considering that it accounts for over 60% of internet download traffic.

Improving video quality and efficiency has a significant positive impact on many subscribers, and directly impacts investments in network infrastructure. A dedicated video delivery function becomes even more important as TV distribution moves from legacy broadcast on a dedicated network to ABR streaming over the internet.

Today, about 75% of TV video consumption still uses traditional broadcast technology, according to Nielsen 2020 Audience Report. When all that traffic moves to the internet, bandwidth consumption will increase dramatically, four times higher than today in average volume.

And that number will soar as live events move to the internet, creating punctual peaks in traffic which, if not properly managed, can cause congestion in parts of the network and seriously degrade users’ quality of experience.

It can seem a bit counter-intuitive to be willing to manage video delivery at the level of the home gateway, as video has historically been taken in charge by set-top-boxes but, with ABR, video streams become just another form of standard HTTP data and it is quite logical that it would converge with the rest of the traffic, rather than remaining isolated with its own distribution and specific receivers.

And it even becomes a necessity with the growing number of users consuming video on retail devices such as Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku, rather than via operators’ set-top boxes.

For this reason, it seemed natural to Broadpeak to propose its nanoCDN to be added to Nokia’s marketplace. Broadpeak’s nanoCDN is a video distribution application directly embedded in CPEs that is already widely deployed and known as a particularly robust and evolved multicast ABR component.

In a nutshell, multicast-ABR is a technology that enables to send one single physical stream to all home devices at once in multicast rather than relying on a massive number of individual unicast connections. This offers virtually unlimited streaming capacity as local caches reside in the home, guaranteeing optimum QoE for events like live sports.

 

Open Home Gateways: the extreme edge of the cloud

 

So far, we discussed opening CPEs from the home perspective, but we also need to look at it from the network side, with the perspective of edge computing. Home gateways are a natural extension of the Cloud Edge. As the cloud gets pushed deeper into the network, data distribution can take advantage of caching data closer to the end user, which guarantees a better performance in terms of quality and latency.

Conversely, the success of the cloud can also guide decisions about future gateways architectures. For instance, using virtualization, containerization and orchestration standards, cloud specialists are now able to decorrelate the application layer, the deployment environment, and the hardware. This has provided datacenters with more flexibility in the choice of components, better interoperability, easier deployments, faster innovations, elasticity for dynamically sharing, and optimizing resources.

Similarly, successful gateways implementation relies on a layer over the operating system that abstracts the physical components, including many basic functions, and offers the ability to easily download and manage 3rd party application containers. The segmentation that containerization offers also works very well to manage a wide variety of processes and functions, to ensure that the failure of one doesn’t affect all others running on the host, and to efficiently distribute the host’s shared resources.

Conclusion

 

For the near future, video will continue to require more bandwidth and demand higher delivery quality than any other application. Gateways need to play an important role in the migration from broadcast to streaming, helping to resolve scalability issues and ensuring that the quality of experience meets the standards set by traditional broadcast.

This can greatly be helped by opening up gateways to applications marketplaces, such as Nokia’s, especially when considering this device as being the very edge of the network and applying proven Cloud principles such as containerization, open applications or APIs. 

The movement to openness and innovation is expanding, starting with smartphones, smart STB and advancing now to its next target, the “smart gateway.”

 

Author

Damien Sterkers

Damien Sterkers is Product Manager at Broadpeak. He’s in charge of the nanoCDNTM multicast ABR solution. Prior to joining Broadpeak, Damien has led different positions at Harmonic. He served as System Integration Engineer and Solutions Architect in France before moving to Sao Paulo, Brazil where he was OTT Solutions Architect.

His whole 20-year career has been dedicated to designing, building and enhancing video distribution systems. His experience, deeply technical and mainly acquired in the field and in direct contact with TV operators, has given him a pragmatic vision on how technical innovations can be translated into practical benefits when it comes to optimizing systems and facilitating their operations. Damien Sterkers holds a master degree of engineering from CentraleSupélec in France.

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