Long reads

Q&A: Oliver Soellner, ABOX42

Oliver Soellner, member of the management board at ABOX42, talks about the advantages of turnkey solutions for TV service providers.

What are the main challenges facing telecom operators in launching TV services and keeping them up-to-date?
The TV market is developing very fast nowadays, so there is a constant need to innovate and keep up with the latest developments, always a need to observe the latest technologies and trends on the market. This is quite new for traditional operators (e.g. cable operators) who are not used to acting agile and keeping up with the market and competitors, since in the past TV services were mainly linear, without much interactivity.

Today there are many new possibilities in terms of features and services (network PVR, restart TV, on-demand services, OTT services), which requires a much more flexible TV solution including a strong set-top box platform to be able to introduce new features over time and keep up with technology trends.

What are the main technology innovations that are changing the way IPTV systems are implemented and what impact will they have?
Looking at recent technology innovations, UHD/4K seems to be a main driver for change these days. UHD/4K requires changes in the complete content delivery system, starting with the introduction of H.265/HEVC for more efficient content distribution and enhanced content security requested by content owners. These technology changes have an impact on the whole production and delivery system (production equipment, encoding, transcoding, streaming and end-user devices such as the operator set-top box). Such change needs solid planning and has quite an impact on operator TV solutions.

Apart from UHD/4K we see a major trend on the operator side to provide comprehensive multiscreen services on multiple devices, which also allow interactions between mobile devices and the set-top box e.g. for content discovery on mobile, playback on TV, essential control functions as well as remote programming of recordings.

Due to the fact that infrastructure is evolving fast and operators are able to offer decent broadband connections on DSL and fibre, more and more end-customers are getting access to new IPTV and hybrid solutions.

What are the main advantages for operators in choosing a turnkey IPTV system as against developing a platform using multiple suppliers?
Choosing a system from a trusted partner means choosing a solution from someone who is a specialist in his field. It is easier, faster and cheaper to rely on the trusted technologies of a turnkey IPTV solution than investing lots of time and money in operators’ own developments and investigations.

Next to cost, a turnkey solution reduces the overall project complexity for the operator, allows the operator to grow seamlessly and benefit from a steady evolvement of features and functions.

Last but not least a turnkey solution takes away a lot of hassle from operators maintaining the solution including all applications, which requires steady development to maintain compatibility of all apps (e.g. iOS, Android, Windows).

To what extent are turnkey solutions more suited to the needs of small and medium-sized operators, and to what extent are larger players likely to go down this route?
We have seen a clear trend for a couple of years already towards white label multiscreen IPTV and hybrid solutions, and not only with smaller/medium size operators who could not handle a complex project and do not have the budget for it.

Even larger operators are increasingly considering hosted and managed solutions, since the history shows that many operators struggled with their legacy solutions by managing a complex project in-house, which has a lot of room for failure and requires quite a strong in-house product management and organisation with various stakeholders.

With a turnkey solution the project complexity is much reduced, which allows the operator to focus on his major strength in marketing and sales.

How much flexibility does a turnkey offering give to service providers to differentiate the user experience and their overall offering?
In the past one of the arguments of larger operators made against white label/ turnkey solutions was that these solutions do not offer enough customisation possibility. Today, this is also becoming less of an issue, since most modern TV middleware solutions are browser-based and do offer a high level of flexibility for customisation and UI changes to achieve a unique user experience across all screens, while still leveraging the advantages of a white label/turnkey solution.