Marc Todd is the President, CEO and CTO of IneoQuest. Mr Todd founded IneoQuest in 2001 with the purpose of assuring video quality for service provider networks and validating OEM equipment. Under his leadership, IneoQuest has grown at an astonishing rate with a global presence and worldwide customer base that has expanded to content providers, broadcasters, government and the enterprise.
Prior to founding IneoQuest, Mr Todd was a Director of Engineering with Wind River Systems. With over ten years’ experience in the video market and 20 years in embedded systems, he is recognised as an industry thought leader. He is a pioneer of video quality assurance theory and technology, leading IneoQuest to market share leadership by delivering the industry’s only true end-to-end quality assurance solution. Mr Todd has developed new technologies for next generation network test and monitoring focusing on Video over IP, IPTV and Over-the-Top (OTT) Video. With IQLabs, IneoQuest’s research and development team, he has overseen the development of the industry’s first adaptive streaming and video conferencing and telepresence service assurance and monitoring solutions.
Marc Todd holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and a Master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Northeastern University.
Paul Casinelli is a Lead Marketer and Business Analyst for IneoQuest Technologies, Inc.
Mr Casinelli specialises in developing successful strategies and driving initiatives and campaigns for IneoQuest’s HTTP adaptive streaming video solutions. He is recognised as a thought leader in the industry, works with leading industry analysts and contributes papers on topics ranging from HTTP Video QoS metrics to the application of Program Availability statistics. In his role as Lead Marketer and Business Analyst, Mr Casinelli collaborates with sales and engineering teams in order to round out IneoQuest’s offering in the Internet and Mobile Video market.
With more than four years’ experience in marketing and communications, Paul Casinelli holds a BA degree in Political Science from Boston College.
Half of all internet video traffic in 2015 is predicted to be Long Form video (over seven minutes) and it is expected to be revenue earning, even when it is streamed over the Internet. This is why good experience must be assured for HTTP streaming, not just by managed IP networks. Standards and metrics for HTTP video streaming are now emerging, measuring quality against ‘Program Availability’ or Media Delivery Index. End-to-end quality control for adaptive streaming video (with variable bitrate) should be monitored at several points, including when the content is encoded, between servers and at the client devices.
According to industry research, more than three-quarters of consumers of all ages around the world are watching video content over the Internet via a PC or TV. As more consumers also access video over their mobile devices, the consumption of video over the internet is becoming the new mass media – creating both opportunities and challenges for service and content providers. However, as companies look to position themselves in this new market, it will be crucial for communications service providers (CSPs) to consider the importance of video assurance as they invest in network management and monitoring activities.
Business drivers for investing in video assurance
It is no surprise to readers that today’s service providers are highly concerned about churn rates and long term customer loyalty. As video quality becomes more important to consumers, communications service providers (CSPs) will need to stay focused on providing the highest quality of service to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty. This article will highlight the importance of video assurance and the latest technology advancements in monitoring IP video and HTTP video streaming networks – with the goal of helping paint the picture of how practical steps in improve video service delivery will impact long term management and security of customer relationships.
Video service quality and program availability
Today’s service and content providers deliver vast amounts of video to millions of consumers through their managed IP networks. Competition in this market is stiff, primarily because today’s video consumer is highly sensitive to quality impairment and will freely switch providers (churn) based on service quality. Consumers now purchase High Definition (HD) video services. The amount of packet loss causing a perceivable error is substantially less for HD video versus Standard Definition (SD) video. Consumers pay extra to receive HD video and expect a high quality experience. They become very upset when they do not receive the quality for which they pay. Not to mention the fact that consumers invest a considerable amount of money in HD TV’s, which allow them to perceive impairments easily, that would be overlooked on an SD television. Thus, delivering quality experience is essential for maintaining customer loyalty and increasing revenues.
To cope with the challenges of deploying high quality video experience to their customers, service and content providers need metrics and solutions focused solely on video assurance. Recommended practices (such as the ANSI/SCTE 168-6 2010 Recommended Practice for Monitoring Multimedia Distribution Quality) advise that service and content providers aim to deliver video to their customers at four nines (or 99.99 per cent) availability in order to provide a high quality video experience that allows them to maintain customer satisfaction.
Achieving high availability video programming means that each and every packet must be inspected and monitored across the entire network. Losing just one packet or having an error packet can cause video impairments at the TV screen. To achieve such performance and deliver a high-end video experience to customers, providers need an automated video assurance solution through which they can drill down into the data on a per-program basis to identify, troubleshoot and proactively address the issues. This comprehensive monitoring solution must be able to monitor each packet and give insightful metrics, such as Program Availability or Media Delivery Index (MDI) on a granular level.
Program availability, as outlined by SCTE (Society of Cable Telecommunication Engineers) recommended practice, is the essential metric that simplifies the complexities in understanding the health of a video network. It is a percentage of time that a specific channel is viewable without impairment. By recording Program Availability statistics on a per-program basis, service and content providers can pinpoint problem areas in their networks in a way that both technicians and executives can understand.
Why is assuring HTTP video streaming different?
Today we are witnessing a fundamental shift in the way people consume video. The rise of internet video services allows consumers to select content and personalise the video experience to match their interests. While delivering internet video through HTTP video streaming offers new opportunities for providers, it also offers unique revenue assurance and customer satisfaction challenges. In short, video consumers will expect the same high quality video experience with their TV Everywhere or OTT (Over The Top) services that they received through managed IP networks. While successfully delivering a short video clip can be a simple task, delivering a TV show or sporting event is another matter entirely.
Mobile video is experiencing explosive growth and will comprise a significant portion of internet video traffic in the future. Bandwidth limitations will vary constantly, even within the same viewing session, and dynamically changing video bitrate for a complex video over a long period of time is a difficult task to say the least. Furthermore, long form video, or video over seven minutes in length, will be half of all internet video traffic in 2015 and will be mostly comprised of paid-for services, whether TV Everywhere, Video on Demand (VOD), or OTT. Significant portions of mobile and long-form internet video traffic will be revenue generating, and in order to maintain customer satisfaction content and service providers will need to differentiate their services by quality.
[Colin – Insert fig 1]
HTTP video streaming networks will require their own set of quality monitoring capabilities different from todays managed IP video networks. There are a few reasons for this. HTTP streaming utilises adaptive bitrate (ABR) technology - depending on available bandwidth and the client device playing out the video, the size and quality of the video stream changes so that the video is uninterrupted by buffering instances. To ensure continuous streaming across all devices and maintain uninterrupted service, each video stream must be encoded into several data files of variant bitrate and delivered in small segments of that data file through the content delivery network (CDN) to the end device, using techniques such as Apple HLS, Adobe HDS and Microsoft Smooth Streaming.
[Colin – Insert fig 2]
There is also a complex web of communications within the CDN and between the CDN and the client device. For example, origin servers within the CDN must be able to publish video assets to the caching servers quickly and without error. Then, client devices must request chunks quickly enough from the CDN in order to queue up the next video segment before the current one is played out. The complexity of these operations will only expand as HTTP video traffic grows.
Without the proper monitoring tools and metrics focused specifically on delivering high quality HTTP video streams, service and content providers may not be able to detect when impairments occur, leaving them powerless when it comes to video quality assurance. Fortunately, solutions and metrics for HTTP video streaming are emerging that provide ways to monitor adaptive streaming video networks.
In any Adaptive Streaming Monitoring Solution, there are four monitoring points that are necessary for a true video quality assurance solution:
• The first is content monitoring Pre- and Post-Encoder to assure that the quality of the content going into the encoder and all the variant bitrates and protocols that are going to the CDN. If a network starts off with bad quality video to begin with, assuring QoS throughout the rest of the network is pointless.
• It is also essential to monitor QoS, with metrics such as VeriStream, between the encoder and the origin servers as well as between the origin servers and the caching servers. This ensures that all servers are receiving the correct video files in a timely manner with accurate control messaging.
• The third monitoring point is between the client devices and the caching servers. Here, an end-to-end solution monitors content availability to ensure that the desired asset is on the caching server so the client device can access and play it.
• Finally, a true end-to-end quality assurance solution monitors the quality and performance statistics of client devices at all geographic locations. Because these client devices play such an important role in the delivery of the video (they receive the video, display it, queue up files and determine the bitrate of the video file they will receive) they absolutely must be monitored.
Does it matter to customers?
Today’s video consumer is extremely sensitive to video impairments, making a comprehensive monitoring solution and metrics, like Program Availability, essential for CSP’s to deploy successfully video services and reduce customer churn. Just as IP video assurance has unique scenarios and chances for impairment, so does HTTP video streaming. In both cases, only a true, end-to-end monitoring solution can give service and content providers the tools necessary to assure high quality video, improve experience and retain customers.
High quality video services have not always been an important topic, but with the advancement of digital video and expensive HD services, customers’ expectations have been elevated. Expectations are key here, as we have seen customers make it clear that they expect a certain level of service and are willing to change providers to get it. With the number of people watching video on the rise across the globe, we anticipate customer experience to have the most significant impact on business decisions that their service providers make.
An operator delivering video services of any kind should re-assess the ROI (Return On Investment) and customer relationship management issues that are at stake when weighing service assurance options. Our recommendation is to make sure your video quality does not get overlooked by the complexities and expenses of building out and maintaining your networks. Explore the latest standards on video assurance solutions and metrics, like Program Availability, so that you can make educated investment decisions that will positively impact your business for years to come.