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Report on Shemaroo

OTT players eye CDNs for optimised video delivery on mobile devices

India has its unique challenges for video.

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MUMBAI: There's no doubt that content is the most important component for over-the-top (OTT) platforms and publishers. But what has been put on the backburner is how platforms deliver content to our devices; i.e, the role of content delivery network (CDN) in the online ecosystem. During the Covid2019 lockdown, all OTT platforms and news websites have seen 2X-3X growth on average and CDNs have ensured uninterrupted consumer experience. As smartphone usage shoots up with more interactive content, CDNs need to innovate as well.

Snapdeal CTO Prashant Parashar said during a virtual roundtable organised by Indiantelevision.com that CDNs have not focused highly on mobile devices while Indian consumers mostly consume content on smartphones. According to him, it is the right time for CDN players to innovate on the mobile side of videos and images and optimise for the newer economy in the post-Covid2019 world.

 “A lot of time we experience that video delivery is not as optimised as you would expect for mobile platforms. As new content is not being created, content consumption has spread out quite a bit. As a result, it is putting pressure on CDNs in terms of efficiency. Hence, it has become tough managing traffic,” Viacom18 Digital Ventures technology and engineering head Mohit Srivastava added.

Limelight Networks product management senior director Michael Milligan also acknowledged that serving video to mobile devices have certain challenges. If a user is on fixed broadband, the bandwidth can be anticipated. But in terms of mobile connection, bandwidth as well as the latency may change unpredictably.

“So from a Limelight point of view, we have done a lot to optimise how we can sustain network condition changes in real-time. We have done a lot of work in CDN and HTTP streaming capabilities to be aware of bandwidth changes quickly and to work with our customers to make it easier as things like buffer rate have a huge impact in countries where people are watching mostly on mobile. We have optimised a lot of our CDN to do that,” he added.

“It has to do with TCP optimisation and understanding a client’s bandwidth. There are various algorithms which you can use to understand real-time bandwidth. It's a very interesting technical challenge because as you are trying to measure the bandwidth, you are actually impacting how you do that. There are some algorithms that have been developed lately by companies like Google and Netflix to help do that in a way that’s more efficient. We look at the connection real-time and understand the bandwidth and latency simultaneously,” he elaborated.

Asked as an OTT player what he expects from a CDN, Srivastava said that cost is very important because the amount of video OTT players deliver can really change the economics of the business. But beyond cost, everyone who delivers video is looking at the quality of service that they can expect of a CDN along with the kind of configurabilty and customisability that it provides because the video has multiple use cases. He mentioned that broadcast is an easier case to serve but as soon as it comes to peer-to-peer communication, it starts becoming a challenge. According to him, CDNs have not played that important role so far in the case of such communication.

 “For customers, we are looking to have specific types of applications they want to build for something specific. We have edge computing capabilities around the world. They can use it to deploy their application. When we specifically talk about low-latency types of communication, we do have a real-time screening application that we have rolled out. We provide the ability to share video with viewers anywhere around the world in less than a second,” Milligan responded.

EPIC ON COO Sourjya Mohanty highlighted that the challenge of compression continues to exist. Milligan added that consumer appetite for quality goes up but at the same time they need to have a compression standard. He also stated that several compression tools have come into the market. Srivastava added that it’s not only about newer compression technologies being available but also be adaptable on client devices as well. Hence, CDNs still need to evolve and invest despite being an essential requirement for the online content ecosystem. 

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