Content, Connectivity and Convergence (Connect World Special)
Sanjay Rohatgi, Managing Director, Service Provider, Cisco India & SAARC
Broadband, a term that is often used synonymously with an internet access connection, has today become an indispensable tool for business users and consumers alike. It enables access to a plethora of services, including online shopping and banking, entertainment and gaming, remote education and teleworking, public services and healthcare, and this list is by no means exhaustive.
Worldwide broadband adoption has grown exponentially over the past few years; alongside the growth in the number of Internet connections, the capacity required by each individual subscriber is rapidly increasing. Users today demand more bandwidth and more personalization besides data, voice, and video services (triple play) to support new applications. The trend toward more data-intensive transmission formats continues with the widespread uptake of high-definition (HD) video; and introduction of ultra-HD formats.
Consumer behavior is changing rapidly and people are tending to watch less linear broadcast programming (arguably better delivered on terrestrial or satellite systems), and more on-demand content at a time and place and on a device to suit them, whether delivered over the Internet ("over the top") or as a Telco managed service.
According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) by 2016, annual global IP traffic is forecast to be 1.3 zettabytes. This increase in Internet traffic will be influenced by changes in the way we access the Internet. The number of Internet-enabled devices such as Tablets, Smartphones, and connected TVs is likely to double by 2015, to nearly 15 billion global network connections, meaning there will be more than two connected devices for every person on earth.
The growing popularity of connected devices will enhance the desirability of cloud-based data storage, because it enables users to access their data from any device and synchronize data across multiple devices. Business and consumer cloud-based applications are certain to grow in popularity as broadband connections become faster and more reliable.
The business case
All of the above mentioned trends provide compelling business opportunities for service providers. The challenge is to deploy and scale new services with the reliability and security that customers expect, while managing costs and growing profitability. By taking a strategic approach to enable converged voice, video, and data services and deploying intelligent, highly integrated technologies throughout the network, service providers can expand their offerings and accelerate the delivery of triple play services.
Vendors positioned to deliver proven IP broadband solutions can enable service providers expand offerings quickly and profitably (over DSL, cable, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or any other broadband architecture). Developing a comprehensive portfolio of solutions across all access technologies and ensuring intelligence, security, scalability, and performance helps to effectively provision and manage varied broadband services.
To effectively meet customers' needs, service providers must have solutions that can deliver multiple services over a common infrastructure. Using a single, common infrastructure to support a variety of services greatly improves return on investment (ROI) in the broadband network.
Broadband solutions must reflect expertise across the entire service network and a strategic understanding of how all the components of a service offering interact. Solutions designed to interoperate and support intelligent IP services such as quality of service (QoS) across the network help service providers to more easily design, provision, and manage service-driven triple play solutions.
Supporting an extensive range of platforms, such solutions help service providers accelerate deployments, manage network resources, deliver full-service offerings and enhance average revenue per user (ARPU). They provide a dynamic, highly flexible foundation for supporting QoS, customization, integration, and mobility to offer an optimized quality of subscriber experience (QoE).
Network solutions that are standards based deliver rich features and intelligence—independent of network architecture, transport technology, or access protocol. Instead of asking service providers to adapt to new technologies, they help accommodate new business or regulatory requirements, expanded service offering and a growing customer base.
Solutions that provide built-in intelligence will support mobile users and enable providers to extend QoS, security, and other services over wireless networks. Solutions that provide an open, extensible platform for end-to-end service management across multiple network components enable service providers deploy complex, policy-enabled network services that reduce their costs, generate new revenues, and increase ROI in the broadband network.
Networks must be able to not only differentiate between types of IP traffic but also have the ability to monitor and classify traffic at the application and packet levels—a function called service control. Service Control solutions that overlay intelligence and application-level control on existing IP transport networks, help service providers analyze, control, and meter application and content-based services, identify content running on any protocol, provide detailed analysis and control of complex, content-based applications, and prioritize sessions in real time.
Influence of Policy and Regulation
Policy and regulation can have a decisive influence on the business case and deployment strategies for rolling out high-speed broadband services. In India, the National Telecom Policy (NTP) 2012, approved by the Union Cabinet, promises broadband for all with a minimum download speed of 2 megabits. The policy expects to take India's rural teledensity from 39 to 70% in the next 5 years with the target that every single Indian will have a phone by 2020.
With NTP in the backdrop, service providers are changing assumptions about how to design and deploy networks to deliver the customized services that customers expect and demand. In the past, service providers focused first on building a network infrastructure and delivering the services that infrastructure could support. Today however, the services that customers need are increasingly influencing the design of the broadband network infrastructure.
In a related move by the Government, cable digitization is set to become a reality in India by December 2014. This will ensure that end consumers get a far better entertainment experience because digitization brings about the convergence of high-definition content and broadband accessibility. While consumers are in for a treat, the cable TV industry itself would undergo a sea change.
Digitization of cable network offers tremendous potential for cable operators and broadcasters because it will result in full addressability and eradicate under-reporting of any subscriber base. Consequently, there will be increase in subscription revenues for them. With greater bandwidth underground, the carriage cost paid by broadcasters to distributors will come down but that will be well compensated by the increased number of channels that the cable operators will carry.
According to the Telecom Regulatory of India (TRAI), there are over 200 broadcasters and about 600 television channels in India currently. Service providers include over 6000 MSOs, 60,000 LCOs, besides seven satellite television operators and many IPTV providers; the total number of TV households stands at 147 million. All this means a huge business opportunity for various players in the value chain.
The demand for access bit rates continues to grow exponentially and shows no sign of slowing down in the foreseeable future. Copper telephone networks that have carried Internet services are reaching the physical limits of their capabilities and will not be able to sustain the applications and services of the future. There is a general consensus among policy makers and telecommunications operators that Next-generation access (NGA) to provide Internet access and deliver other content and applications at much faster speeds.
The transformation requires operators to support new technologies and may necessitate changes in business processes and customer relationships to cope with the substantial investment needed. The end result is a variety of different business models and approaches to fiber deployment in access networks and the absence of a "one size fits all" solution.
Solutions are available today that help cable operators experiencing a fundamental shift in their business as they move from broadcast to unicast content delivery. They help deliver more bandwidth per interface than traditional video solutions and significantly lower costs. Using these solutions helps enable secure, scalable, high-performance broadband services that meet the needs of customers today, and in the future.
Enterprise and service providers continue to develop and test new triple play solution suites along with vendors to bring customers converged, value-added data, voice, and video services regardless of whether the services are targeted at a single city, a region, or the entire country. Technology choice is important, but it is secondary to achieving a sustainable ROI over the lifetime of the infrastructure.