Multicast has never really taken off on the slower ADSL and ADSL2+ services, but Openreach is pushing forward with a launch of Multicast for GEA on its fibre based products. The service will have an early market deployment in April 2012, and be available to both FTTP and FTTC services, with capacity available for multicast use in 5 Mbps blocks.
Multicast is attractive to companies looking to broadcast content to a large number of connections, while avoiding having to duplicate the data many times. This makes it ideal for the transmission of live TV, race results, share prices or even file downloads that will be going to thousands of people at the same time.
IPTV services in many countries have led the demand for fibre roll-outs, and the UK is looking set to be another, with fibre offering the potential to supplement Freeview offerings, or to provide alternate feeds beyond what existing satellite services can provide. With FTTC offering up to 80 Mbps at the retail level shortly (trials are near to completion) and FTTP offering 300 Mbps this year, there is potential for fibre to be the medium of choice for video content at quality levels above the 10 to 15 Mbps that satellite TV can support.
The LLU providers who spring to mind in terms of utilising a multicast service, are TalkTalk (who own Tiscali TV aka HomeChoice) and Sky. The providers are in the position that a single feed to their LLU hardware in an exchange could then feed many customers connected to that exchange using Openreach fibre products. Tiscali TV used to be limited to 2 Mbps streams, so more capacity would boost picture quality, and Sky could offer a super HD experience with less compressed content to users of its Sky Anytime+ service.
Some commentators have commented that Openreach fibre products mean LLU is a dead in the water, but by virtue of already having your own rack space physically in an exchange means opportunities like this product are easier to exploit. In some exchanges, space is limited to the extent that once a couple of LLU providers are present, expanding to accomodate another can be very costly.
With a few months to the Olympics, one thing that has not escaped our thoughts, and that is a multicast service, with live HD feeds from five or six venues could showcase what fibre can support. For those who already find the Olympics a boring, this could also allow a more normal service to broadcast on the main channels.