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Ericsson debuts Mediaroom 4K support and cloud-based MediaFirst

Ericsson is using IBC to unveil the expansion of its portfolio around the Mediaroom TV product it acquired from Microsoft and to introduce MediaFirst, a new cloud-based TV platform.

On the Mediaroom side, according to Ben Huang, head of Mediaroom marketing, the platform is close to having 17.5 million subscribers with 33 million STBs deployed. “We feel we’ve made good progress but we need to address the needs of the market,” said Huang. One area is to extend the core TV experience as well as extend Mediaroom to provide support for multiscreen. Microsoft is also unveiling support for 4K TV and HEVC on ARM-based chipsets.

Huang said multiscreen in most cases is currently divorced from the linear broadcast side. He said that Ericsson would differentiate Mediaroom by integrating multiroom with the main screen TV experience. The relevant enhancements also make use of some of the technology Ericsson acquired from its Azuki acquisition, including support for adaptive bit-rate encoding and the ability to reach multiple clients quickly, said Huang, along with the ability to transfer rights to multiple devices quickly and efficiently.

To add support for 4K, Ericsson has done a lot of work to take Mediaroom’s Win-CE-based platform and migrate it to an ARM chip to get the horsepower to deliver HEVC video for UHDTV. The 4K enhancements are expected to be commercialized in 2Q15. “We want to make sure the industry knows this will be available in Q2,” said Huang.

Ericsson is also supporting cable and satellite hybrid deployments for the first time, again partly based on technology from its Azuki acquisition.

Huang said that RDK – the Comcast-supported initiative to increase the speed with which cable operators can deliver services by standardizing elements of the underlying technology – had made progress in some pockets but Ericsson has not taken a position on it so far. From the Azuki acquisition Ericsson has taken some components and teamed up with iWedia and others who are strong in the broadcast technology side. “We are showing a box at IBC where we combine these two technology sets into one, so you can do a DVB-C service along with leading edge video on demand,” he said.

Ericsson’s other main focus at IBC is the launch of MediaFirst. Huang said that operators currently license platforms from technology providers and operate the platform. “That’s what Mediaroom does today but pay TV operators are challenged on the speed of execution side from OTT,” said Huang. “That is where MediaFirst comes in. MediaFirst is based on cloud technologies and initially it will be offered as software as a service. It is about allowing operators in this emerging type of model the ability to have a platform that is robust and scalable but gives the speed of web services.”

Huang said cloud is an overused word. “This is about how well the platform integrated into other parts of the operators’ infrastructure. What is happening is that you have a dual problem. Operators need nimble platforms on the back end and they need to work out how to turn on a service quickly for the consumer. On the front end you have devices you control in the house but consumers are bringing their own devices and it is about how to manage all these devices at ‘web speed’.”

MediaFirst is about enabling operators to manage their services as they would a website, he said. Ericsson will partner with operators and manage the service jointly.

On the client side, the service is delivered around HTML5 and Javascript. Huang differentiated what Ericsson is doing from rival cloud-based user experiences such as that offered by the likes of ActiveVideo. “Transport costs are huge so it is not about streaming everything, it is about pushing down just what you need. You don’t need to encapsulate everything in the cloud,” he said. “Operators know their issues and see OTT providers are doing and think about how they can use their networks to deliver services quickly. Operators are also worried about core network and last mile issues and using bandwidth efficiently. That is the genesis of MediaFirst.”

Getting to a large number of clients very quickly is a challenge. “Set-tops are treated one way and iPads another way. We had to think of all these as equal class citizens,” said Huang.

The product will be available in 2Q15. Huang said that MediaFirst “has moved the ball forward on the consumer side” and is showing something with “working code”.

 

Ericsson will exhibit at IBC on stand 1.D61