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Voddler To Launch Live Streaming Solution
The Swedish group is also targeting emerging markets in APAC and MEA with its VoddlerNet peer-assisted delivery platform

The Voddler Group, a VOD streaming solutions provider, is to launch a version of its platform augmented for live video and is also looking to target the underserved yet huge and rapidly growing markets of Africa and Asia Pacific.

VoddlerNet Live builds on the company's VoddlerNet technology which combines controlled peer-assisted delivery with direct streaming from the source provider.

The tech is in alpha with customers signed to a beta release and an expected commercial release by end of the year targeting providers of live OTT content, notably sports.

"Peer-assisted video delivery offers an innovative way of providing a very large number of edge servers without the associated costs," explains Adam Lewis, president & CEO. "A typical CDN design is one-to-many, with content flows from a central hub to edge servers and then to consumers. In a peer-assisted system, end-user devices act as nodes in a vast, webbed network, sharing content with each other. With every member of a service acting as an edge cache, video content bypasses the CDN’s server infrastructure, traveling shorter distances, and avoiding peak traffic slow-downs and thus ensuring a buffer-less viewing experience. The more consumers the service has, the more robust and resilient the peer network becomes."

He adds that the peaks of demand are never more extreme than in live and that this creates unmanageable pressure on a typical OTT infrastructure. "VoddlerNet Live solves this. We don't care how big the peak is. In fact, the bigger the better for us and our customers in a live environment where we will hit close to the magical 5 nines availability mark," he says.

Lewis adds, "There are customers keen to get into the live business but maybe haven't architected their platform such that it can cope with that. The impact is being sharply felt by the telcos on their bottom line: messaging and voice revenues in the emerging markets are eroding dramatically, and subscriber loyalty as a function of net promoter scores (NPS) is dropping precipitously. Without the deployment in the near-term of an effective and scalable solution to the video consumption juggernaut, and a means to monetise it, some telcos will fight to survive. Many are already feeling significant financial pressure."

VoddlerNet Targets "Weaker Device" Market

It is also introducing version 2.0 of VoddlerNet, targeting a gap in the market Lewis describes as the "weaker device" marketplace.

"These are markets in Africa, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, and large parts of Asia, where there are no robust networks," he explains. "We are not talking about devices which have maybe not been upgraded to the latest OS, we mean weak devices which have limited battery or storage capacity.

"In those markets battery time is not measured in terms of a heavy use over a day but where their range is maybe 2 or 3 hours maximum. In addition, in these markets there is also uncertainty about power in the grid so battery consumption is even more at a premium for users. VoddlerNet v2.0 optimises storage so that our clients can operate in an even smaller footprint to engage those users."

In other words, Voddler is promising to reach a whole new set of customers which have been sidelined by OTT providers because they have almost literally been off the grid.

Worldwide IP traffic is growing fastest in the Middle East and Africa (MEA), followed by APAC, according to Cisco’s 2016 Visual Networking Index, which predicts that cross-platform IP traffic is expected to reach 2 zettabytes per year by 2019. Central to this acceleration is the emergence of OTT video in APAC & MEA, which is expected to surge in the region over the next four years according to Juniper Research.

Worldwide, 75% of viewers abandoned poor streaming within the first 4 minutes according to research by Conviva, the video analytics company. However, the viewing experience is worsened throughout APAC as demand outpaces the networks' ability to support it. In APAC, just over 17% of viewing attempts ended in an exit before the video even started, nearly double the rate in EMEA (source: Voddler/Conviva).

The company has several customer announcements pending in the next few weeks. These are VOD platform operators focussed on mobile in APAC and in the Middle East.

"Many players want to get into the business and to be the next Netflix of Indonesia or Malaysia yet they are bedevilled because the underlying infrastructure is poor," says Lewis. "Fundamentally, what we're working with them to do is expand their reach exponentially to be able to surface those users that currently cannot be reached. Most OTT VOD players mandate a minimum connectivity of 1.5Mbps, but in a major city like Cairo the average is 500Kbps. The ability to impact a far greater amount of consumers overnight is really amazing and that's what our technology can do."

In addition, countries like the Philippines or Indonesia span multiple islands making it extremely difficult to propagate content efficiently. "It's even more tricky to get customers to come back for more – except when clients work with us," contends Lewis.

Indonesian OTT service provider ThinkingTub Media is a recent VoddlerNet customer. The introduction of the hybrid peering platform is reported to have "greatly expanded" the reach of ThinkingTub's video services, and is particularly powerful in their service areas where internet connectivity is limited "and traditional CDNs do not provide an effective and cost-efficient solution."

The Stockholm-based company has been called the Spotify of video, perhaps only because of its proximity to the Swedish music streamer. While the comparison is flattering to Lewis, it is also misleading.

"We would love to partner with Spotify [which is expanding into video] because they are complementary to what we do. They deliver content whereas we empower the quality of content delivery for others."

Hybrid peer-assisted video delivery does not replace an existing CDN, but complements it to maximise user engagement. It does this by offloading the current centralised streaming: Voddler's own benchmarks suggest that average offloading of 95% or more is readily achievable.

According to the company, VoddlerNet uses patented algorithms to optimise content delivery, effectively creating micro-caches of content across the nodes which efficiently share the requested content according to unique proximity algorithms.

'Because VoddlerNet acts as an overlay to the OTT streaming platforms of telcos and their customers, the overhead on existing architecture is minimal, as is the deployment time," it states. 'It is agnostic to DRM schemas, it supports all operating systems, and is compatible with all the industry leading adaptive streaming protocols.'