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TalkTalk to create TV delivery network for its LLU service
Thursday 21 October 2010 09:52:40 by Andrew Ferguson

TalkTalk and Alcatel-Lucent have signed a three year deal to use the Velocix 7810 range to create a Content Delivery Network. In plain English this means TalkTalk will be installing hardware into its LLU network that will allow them to deliver TV over IP at a sensible cost, and as the solution is embedded in the network, management of traffic volumes should allow the TV experience to be smooth and jitter-free unlike many users' experience of higher quality streamed content over the public internet.

Some will remember that HomeChoice was doing something similar way back in 2000 when ADSL was new to the UK, but the firm never reached a critical mass of users, and was then bought by Tiscali, who was in turn acquired by TalkTalk. It is possible that some of this core expertise will be re-used to roll out a TalkTalk TV product.

"By enabling our network with Alcatel-Lucent Velocix infrastructure, we will be able to lead the market in digital delivery, further showcasing TalkTalk's leading innovation in the UK market. Alcatel-Lucent Velocix's experience of operating a global CDN, coupled with its market leadership and extensive experience in video delivery were major factors in our selection. We believe Alcatel-Lucent is best positioned to support us in the deployment and operation of our own CDN."

Max Alexander, TV & Media Director of TalkTalk

This news is closely related to the YouView project, a joint effort between the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Arqiva, BT and TalkTalk. It is a race to become the Video on Demand (VoD) platform competing against Sky's Anytime Plus service, which while widely publicised has as yet not surfaced. The BT Vision product is already on the market, and while vastly more popular than the old HomeChoice service, it is still well behind Virgin Media and Sky in terms of numbers.

The firm that manages to produce a VoD product, with a decent library of films and TV box-sets at an affordable price (subscription or pay-per-view) stands a good chance of quickly establishing itself. The key to success is availability, price and quality. The near ubiquitous nature of Freeview means any service must exceed that in terms of picture quality. In terms of bit rates, HD channels on Sky can produce reasonable HD quality at 9 to 11Mbps.

TalkTalk may succeed as with some five million customers almost all on its LLU networks, it has a customer base ready to be targeted and in terms of UK coverage its LLU market covers 85% of households. The real issue is what quality/bit rate of video can it use to target its customers–Hopefully variable bit-rates will be supported, so those with fast lines can get HD quality, those further away getting lower quality at lower prices. What will be interesting is how this will impact on the DVD rental market which is trying to provide similar streaming services via the public Internet. We may well see some partnerships in this area.


Posted by tommy45 over 6 years ago
Semms like a pointless exercise, the are plenty of better things that the internet can /is used for than for watching tv, as that in it's self is virtually not worth while most of the time, it's repeat of repeat,ibet there will be some impact on tt customers
Posted by awoodland over 6 years ago
Building a halfway decent CDN opens up some seriously interesting business models though. For instance it wouldn't be impossible to have the whole film catalogue, back catalogue for every TV show you've ever aired etc. all living in every exchange you've ever unbundled.
Posted by awoodland over 6 years ago
That would mean that every home served by your kit in that exchange could potentially have (as good as) uncontended access to all that content, with only fixed overheads for delivering it. TV may be full of repeats of repeats, but there are some gems hidden out there and CDN for on demand streaming might well unlock that (and genuinely all you can eat pricing)

(Maybe Sun weren't so far off with "the network is the computer" with the possibilities this could open)
Posted by john (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
@awoodland there are some interesting possibilities out there, however things like that generally need the shows to be licensed for that use which can cost lots, particularly for popular shows. Stuff produced in the US often has problems like this (e.g. Family Guy isn't available on BBC iPlayer)
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
@tommy45:If you're prepared to pay to watch TV then you don't have to watch repeats. Of course it depends on your tastes but my Sky HD box records five or six hours of new stuff pretty much every evening on average.

Tonight's the worst - pretty sure both tuners run flat out from 8pm to 1am.

Of course the big question then is 'is it worth paying for' but that's more subjective :)
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
If a good film catalogue to rival lovefilm were available, then they may stand a chance. Trick is to (a) get new films as early as Sky (b)good cheap back catalogues.

Even with the pricing the PS3 film downloads, almost offer better choice than Sky Movies already.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
(c)Use a decent bit rate. I have a 34" HD TV and a receiver set up for 5.1 surround, both connected to my PS3 via HDMI.

No way in hell am I going to watch a movie at 800kb/s. Especially not when I actually have over 10Mb/s of bandwidth.
Posted by awoodland over 6 years ago
@john: I expect they'd be able to get enough content licensed to launch with and make it an interesting service. Once the ball is rolling though they stand a good chance of gaining enough momentum to strike up some deals on the rest. All you can eat on demand, uncontended services seems to have the potential to make p2p completely pointless.
Posted by awoodland over 6 years ago
@andrew/AndrueC: If I was lovefilm I'd be seriously worried about this. Their pricing model is terrible for streaming - it costs more to stream a new release than it does to get it on bluray, which makes for a lower quality product all round given the timelimits, lack of extra features, poor bitrate etc.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
I fear that Lovefilm have lost the plot. Lost it a while ago. Their website has often been slow and the redesign of a year ago made finding things more difficult. Now here we are a couple of years since they first introduced streaming/downloading and it's still rubbish.

The only saving grace is that their postal service is reliable and passably well priced.
Posted by davolente over 6 years ago
Won't do me much good, with my lousy half-meg phone line!
Posted by SheepFarmer over 6 years ago
@davolente it will do in the longer term. Once real paying services start to make use of lots of bandwidth there will be a much greater incentive for your supplier to supply you with a better connection.

The profits for just supplying an internet connection are too low to invest much at the moment. Selling additional services gives a better return and might make supplying FTTP to the masses a really good idea.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
@SheepFarmer:I agree. I think the availability of satellite TV in the UK has been a major factor in the sluggish roll-out of broadband. In most other countries FTTP is bundled with TV and people sign up for it because of that. But in the UK all you need is line of sight to 28.2e.

As a result there's no service or application that requires even a 10Mb/s service. People can enjoy the best TV and films without evening owning a broadband connection.
Posted by c_j_ over 6 years ago
Andrue, I'm not sure I follow that logic. Satellite TV direct to home has existed for years in the European countries I used to visit (France, Germany, Italy - countries with real hills, hence poor TV coverage from masts!). Much of their sat TV is even free-to-air (unlike Sky). The sluggish UK rollout of *high speed* broadband is down to something else, e.g. BT and the (un)regulator.
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
is also jitter free over the internet if on a good isp. :)
Posted by DWRumble over 6 years ago
Who in their right mind wants to watch TV on their computer? The quality is, by and large, abysmal, and the many repeats (and re-repeats) a pain in the backside.
I'm getting a speed of just over 1mbps on my connection, and if it weren't for the reasonable cost for the telephone, I would have changed my ISO some time ago.
Posted by DWRumble over 6 years ago
My apologies for the typo.
It should have been ISP
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