MPEG-DASH: Struggling for Adoption?
MPEG-DASH, and particularly the DASH264 spec, will help standardize and unify online video delivery, but the move to embrace has been slower going than the hype might suggest
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It may be early days for MPEG-DASH, the format intended to unify the various adaptive bit-rate (ABR) specifications, but there are already concerns of slower than expected take-up.

“There are several trials and lots of noise about MPEG-DASH, but we’ve yet to see concrete demand that point to DASH being the great unifier,” warns Bruce Devlin, CTO of AmberFin. “In fact, unless there is some operational agreement on how to use the standard between different platform operators, then it might become yet another format to support.”

MPEG-DASH was ratified as an international standard in November 2011 and published as by ISO a year ago. If 2012 was a proving-in year for the technology, with a number of proof-of-concept trials, the coming year may prove critical for widespread adoption.

“DASH has taken quite a while to gather a following among consumer electronics and software technology vendors, delaying its adoption,” argues RGB Networks' senior director of product marketing Nabil Kanaan.

“The various profiles defined by DASH have aded too much flexibility in the ecosystem, at the cost of quick standardisation. We still believe it’s a viable industry initiative and are supporting it from a network standpoint and working with ecosystem partners to make it a deployable technology.”

Elemental Technologies' vice president of marketing Keith Wymbs says, “To date the impact of MPEG-DASH has been to spur the discussion about the proliferation of streaming technologies.”

Digital Rapids marketing director Mike Nann says, “MPEG-DASH isn’t in a position where people are thinking that it will be the only spec they’ll need to support in the near to mid-term, but most believe that it will reduce the number of adaptive streaming specifications that they’ll need to prepare their content for.”

Jamie Sherry, senior product manager at Wowza Media Systems, also thinks DASH has had very little impact to date other than to re-emphasise that for high-quality online video to really become profitable and widespread, “issues like streaming media format fragmentation must be addressed.”

“If the ideals of MPEG-DASH become a reality and traction occurs in terms of deployments—perhaps with the help of the proposed DASH264 deployment guidelines—the impact to the market will be positive as operators and content publishers in general will have a real opportunity to grow their audiences while keeping costs in line,” he says.

Nann also looks to the recommended interoperability and deployment configurations of DASH264 to give renewed impetus.

“As an analogy, look back at the evolution of MPEG-2 and transport streams,” he says. “If every cable operator, encoder, middleware vendor, and set top box vendor supported a different subset of parameters, profiles, levels, and features, they might all be within the MPEG-2 and TS specs, but we probably wouldn't have the widespread interoperability (and thus adoption) we have today. DASH264 is a means of doing the same for MPEG-DASH, providing a constrained set of requirements for supporting DASH across the devices that support it, and giving vendors interoperability targets.”

Digital Rapids expects to see increased adoption in 2013 with “considerably more pilot projects as well as commercial deployments”, with growing device support particularly consumer viewing devices.

“The client device support is going to be one of the biggest factors in how quickly MPEG-DASH rolls out,” says Nann.

Telestream product marketing director John Pallett concurs: “The primary driver for adoption will be the player technology to support it. The companies that develop players are generally working to support MPEG-DASH alongside their legacy formats. Most of the major player companies want to migrate to DASH, but real adoption will come when a major consumer product supports DASH natively. This has not yet happened, but we anticipate that it will change over the next year.”

Elemental Technologies' Wymbs believes the discussion will evolve in the next twelve months “to one centering on the use of MPEG-DASH as a primary distribution format from centralized locations to the edge of the network where it will then be repackaged to the destination format as required.”

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