Video: Multicast ABR opens the door to a new DVB era

Multicast ABR (mABR) is a way of delivering standard HTTP-based streams like HLS and DASH over multicast. This can be done using an ISP’s managed network to multicast to thousands of homes and only within the home itself does the stream gets converted into unicast HTTP. This allows devices in the home to access streaming services in exactly the same way as they would Netflix or iPlayer, but avoiding strain on the core network. Streaming is a point-to-point service so each device takes its own stream. If you have 3 devices in the home watching a service, you’ll be sending 3 streams out to them. With mABR, the core network only ever sees one stream to the home and the linear scaling is done internally.

Guillaume Bichot from Broadpeak explains how this would work with a multicast server that picks up the streaming files from a CDN/the internet and converts it into multicast. This then needs a gateway at the other end to convert back into multicast. The gateway can run on a set-top-box in the home, as long as multicast can be carried over the last mile to the box. Alternatively, it can be upstream at a local headend or similar.

At the beginning of the talk, we hear from BBC R&D’s Richard Bradbury who explains the current state of the work. Published as DVB Bluebook A176, this is currently written to account for live streaming, but will be extended in the future to deal with video on demand. The gateway is able to respond with a standard HTTP redirect if it becomes overloaded which seamlessly pushes the player’s request directly to the relevant CDN endpoint.

DVB also outlines how players can contact the CDN for missing data or video streams that are not provided, currently, via the gateway. Guillaume outlines which parts of the ecosystem are specified and which are not. For instance, the function of the server is explained but not how it achieves this. He then shows where all this fits into the network stack and highlights that this is protocol-agnostic as far as delivery of media. Whilst they have used DVB-DASH as their assumed target, this could as easily work with HLS or other formats.

Guillaume finishes by showing deployment examples. We see that this can work with uni-directional satellite feeds with a return channel over the internet. It can also work with multiple gateways accessible to a single consumer.

The webinar ends with questions though, during the webinar, Richard Bradbury was answering questions on the chat. DVB has provided a transcript of these questions.

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Richard Bradbury Richard Bradbury
Lead Research Engineer,
Guillaume Bichot Guillaume Bichot
Principal Engineer, Head of Exploration,

Webinar: Multicast ABR opens the door to a new DVB era

Now available on demand

With video delivery constituting the majority of traffic, it’s clear there’s a big market for it. ON the internet, this is done with unicast streaming where for each receiver, the stream source has to send another stream. The way this has been implemented using HTTP allows for a very natural system, allied Adaptive Bit Rate (ABR), which means that every when your network capacity is constrained (by the network itself or bandwidth contention), you can still get a picture just at a lower bit rate.

But when extrapolating this system linear television, we find that large audience place massive demands on the originating infrastructure. This load on the infrastructure drives its architects to implement a lot of redundancy making it expensive to run. Within a broadcaster, such loads would be dealt with by multicast traffic but on the internet, Multicast is not enabled. For an IPTV system where each employee had access via a program on their PC and/or a set-top-box on their desk, the video would be sent by multicast meaning that it is the network that was providing the duplication of the streams to each endpoint, not the source.

By combining existing media encoding and packaging formats with the efficiency of point-to-multipoint distribution to the edge of IP-based access networks, it is possible to design a system for linear media distribution that is both efficient and scalable to very large audiences, while remaining technically compatible with the largest possible set of already-deployed end user equipment.

This webinar by Guillaume Bichot which is in place of his talk at the cancelled DVB World 2020 event explains DVB’s approach to doing thus that; combining multicast ordination of content with delivery of an ABR feed, called DVB-mABR.

Video broadcast has been digitised since it’s initial broadcasts in the 30s, and more than once. In Europe, we have seen IP carriage (IPTV) services and most recently the hybrid approach where broadband access is merged into transmitted content with the aim of delivering a unified service to the viewer called HbbTV. Multicast ABR (mABR) defines the carriage of Adaptive Bit Rate video formats and protocols over a broadcast/multicast feed. Guillaume explains the mABR architecture and then looks at the deployment possibilities and what the future might hold.

mABR comprises a multicast server at the video headend. This server/transcaster, receives standard ABR feeds and then encapsulates it into multicast before sending. The decoder does the opposite, removing any multicast headers revealing the ABR underneath. It’s not uncommon for mABR to be combined with HTTP unicast allowing the unicast to pick up the less popular channels but for the main services to benefit from multicast.

Guillaume explores these topics plus whether mABR saves bit rate, how it’s deployed and how it can change in the future to keep up with viewers’ requirements.

Watch now on demand!

Guillaume Bichot Guillaume Bichot
Principal Engineer, Head of Exploration

Video: Multicast ABR

Multicast ABR is a mix of two very beneficial technologies which are seldom seen together. ABR – Adaptive Bitrate – allows a player to change the bitrate of the video and audio that it’s playing to adapt to changing network conditions. Multicast is a network technology which efficiently sends a video stream over the network without duplicating bandwidth.

ABR has traditionally been deployed for chunk-based video like HLS where each client downloads its own copy of the video in blocks of several seconds in length. This means that you bandwidth you use to distribute your video increases by one thousand times if 1000 people play your video.

Multicast works with live streams, not chunks, but allows the bandwidth use for 1000 players to increase – in the best case – by 0%.

Here, the panelists look at the benefits of combining multicast distribution of live video with techniques to allow it to change bitrate between different quality streams.

This type of live streaming is actually backwards compatible with old-style STBs since the video sent is a live transport stream, it’s possible to deliver that to a legacy STB using a converter in the house at the same time as delivering a better, more modern delivery to other TVs and devices.

It thus also allows pure-streaming providers to compete with conventional broadcast cable providers and can also result in cost savings in equipment provided but also in bandwidth used.

There’s lots to unpack here, which is why the Streaming Video Alliance have put together this panel of experts.

Watch now and find out more!


Phillipe Carol Phillipe Carol
Senior Product Manager,
Neil Geary Neil Geary
Technical Strategy Consultant,
Liberty Global
Brian Stevenson Brian Stevenson
VP of Ecosystem Strategy & Partnerships,
Mark Fisher Mark Fisher
VP of Marketing & Business Development,
Jason Thibeault Jason Thibeault
Executive Director,
Streaming Video Alliance