Fibre to the Home Europe: Entertainment at the Speed of Light

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The 2013 Fibre to the Home Council Europe show wrapped up yesterday London's ExCel Convention Centre, after pushing streaming media as one of its key themes.

Several sessions, including the opening plenary session, covered the topic of premium entertainment as a key content driver for fibre-to-the-premise (FTTx) adoption.

The plenary session was titled "Entertainment and Film Industry in the FTTH Era" and explored the premise that very-high-speed broadband not just allows but actually compels studios and film production crews to revisit the way services and applications are delivered online.

Moderated by film financier Jeff Andrick, the plenary session's speakers ranged from a film producer to a director to Sony Pictures Entertainment strategy officer Mitch Singer.

Singer focused on UltraViolet, which takes the stance is that devices must be compliant for consistent playback, and that the studios will offer only a guarantee of content's availability in a cloud-based "digital locker."

The studios' premise on delivery, however, is still a "best effort" target that assumes the broadband pipe has sufficient bandwidth for delivery purposes. This hands-off approach to the delivery pipeline is consistent among the studios backing UltraViolet.

Given the lack of infrastructure investment funds within the European Community boundaries over the next five years, the concept of studios investing in network infrastructure—including last-mile delivery to the consumer—should be explored. My column in next month's Streaming Media magazine will set the stage for this topic.

In addition to William Fay, the film producer and president of Global Entertainment Advisors, and Brian O’Shea, a director with The Exchange, the fourth panelist covered the gaming implications of fibre to the premise.

Ian Livingstone, life president of gaming company Eidos, discussed the topic of video games in the FTTH era and concluded that we've yet to see the golden era of gaming that will emerge as business models, gaming realism, and hyper-interactivity emerge alongside bandwidths capable of gameplay beyond high definition.

"Big games need big pipes," said Livingstone of games that have both streaming media content and interactivity delivery requirements. "Each game has 6 terabytes of data delivered over the network, so the future is in the cloud.”

A second session, midway through the first day, explored the cost models around premium content delivery. Under the track heading "Traditions and Change," this session included a representative from a major film studio—again Sony Pictures Entertainment—and an independent production company.

Peter Nelson, the senior vice president of production at Sony Pictures Entertainment, talked about the financial bar being lowered for major studios to deliver premium content, but noted that the same was true for independent content owners and smaller studios. Enzo Lamblet, a film producer with Ana Campina Produções, agreed that FTTx access could generate a wider audience for independent film productions, but noted the studios have economies of scale—and a bit of a perceived lock on consumer electronic devices, such as those with UltraViolet capabilities.

The final session of the day also dealt with premium content delivery, but from the perspective of justifying the need for fibre within the local and wide-area access networks. The session, titled "The Need for Fibre in the Access Network" had representatives from Cisco, Huawei, Iskratel and TE Connectivity.

A large portion of the discussion revolved around how to reach Digital Agenda goals, including technology neutrality and the need to address equal access for all EU member country citizens to premium services such as streaming video. One speaker noted that fibre rollouts continue to increase both in terms of consumer adoption and number of homes / residences passed, but the need for infrastructure buildouts still had room for growth.

Backing up the comments, research firm IDATE released data showing that the second half of 2012 resulted in a net increase of 12 per cent in FTTx subscribers, for a total of 7.3 million FTTx subscribers within Europe. In the rest of the world, fibre adoptions are outpacing cable modem connections, although both still pale in comparison to DSL connections.

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