The over-the-top video wave isn’t going away. In fact, it’s only getting bigger, leaving cable operators with the option of bracing for it or getting swamped by it.
A recent strategic, technical move by Mediacom Communications is an indicator that cable operators have decided to brace for more and more OTT video, if not embrace it outright.
Last week, Mediacom revealed it is rolling out a transparent caching platform from Qwilt, a three-year-old startup, that’s designed to help the operator keep its online video-traffic levels in check while also boosting the quality of over-the-top video traversing its network.
The deployment centers on Qwilt’s flagship product, the QB-Series Video Fabric Controller, an off -the-shelf Dell server outfitted with special software and algorithms that monitor video traffic on operator networks, identify popular video titles, and store those titles at the network’s edge.
That mix should help Mediacom scale its OTT video infrastructure while reducing transport costs.
Video represents about 70% of OTT traffic today, and just 10% of movies and TV titles consume 90% of video-based bandwidth, Mark Fisher, Qwilt’s vice president of marketing and business development, said. Transparent caching “unlocks capacity, because we play the videos locally and improve the experience of the user,” he added.
Qwilt’s platform, typically co-located with cablemodem termination systems, is considered “transparent” in the sense that it monitors online video from myriad sources. Operators are giving serious thought to such products from companies such as Qwilt and PeerApp as they seek alternatives to single-service caching systems being pitched by Netflix, Google and other OTT providers.
Netflix, for example, has been gaining traction for Open Connect, a private caching appliance it offers for free to Internet-service providers along with a content perk — access to its library of “Super HD” and 3D content.
Time Warner Cable has been especially critical of that approach, arguing that Open Connect unfairly holds back content in an attempt to get preferential treatment from ISPs.
Still, Qwilt believes these private caching arrangements won’t scale, holding that if an ISP lets one OTT video provider’s system in the door, then it will then be compelled to do the same for many others.
The Mediacom deal marks Qwilt’s first with a large cable operator; it struck a similar agreement with Choice Cable of Puerto Rico earlier this year and has raised more than $40 million.
Fisher said Qwilt has other deals in place with as yet unnamed operators in the U.S. and abroad, estimating that the company already has more than 25 deployments. He said the deployment model for transparent caching is easily replicated no matter the size of the operator. “This one platform [for Mediacom] can solve the problem many times over,” he said.
Mediacom’s deal with a startup caching platform is a sign that cable operators are bracing for a further surge in over-the-top content.