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Sky teams up with Microsoft
Monday 09 January 2006 09:59:00 by Andrew Ferguson

It was only December that details of the SkyByBroadband service which makes use of the Kontiki peer to peer based client was announced. Now it seems in a joint US/UK announcement at a trade show in Las Vegas that BSkyB and DIRECTV are set to provide more video on demand content using Microsoft based technologies. Full details are in a speech by Bill Gates, which can be read here.

Many headlines have called this news, Sky by Broadband, but given that was the name of the service launched in December this seems odd. The Microsoft announcement appears to be something different, or perhaps a further extension of the service. One option is that it relates to the recent purchase of EasyNet, and means Sky may be looking at a streaming video on demand service using a LLU based infrastructure.

Looking back at the original Kontiki based SkyByBroadband service, the first month has not been totally smooth, and a few users have been surprised by the peer to peer nature of the service. The Kontiki client that is installed as well as letting you download clips and films, will use some of your upstream bandwidth to share material with other subscribers to the service. What some people are voicing concerns about on our forums and other sites, is that the level of upstream usage is not made clear at sign-up and people are it seems not given an easy way to control it. This is most relevant where people are on a provider that has a usage monitoring system or metering, where downloading a clip may prove more expensive than originally thought since you will also be uploading to others. These issues are relevant to a number of other video by broadband services that the peer to peer model is part of. The Kontiki toolkit is by other media providers including the BBC in its BBC iMP trial. We should point out that closing the visible components of the software will not stop the downloads or uploads, there are two processes running in the background KHost.exe and Kontiki.exe that actually do the hard work.

The peer to peer model for content delivery combined with the current charging models for ADSL used by BT Wholesale is perhaps not ideal, providers using LLU are in a much better position generally. The problem with the charging system for BT IPStream based products is that if two people on the same exchange are sharing material that the data will travel all the way to the service provider and back, thus utilising twice the bandwidth (the upload followed by download) on the service providers BT Central product. A better model would be for the IP level to be pushed down to the exchange, keeping traffic between local users really local.

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