The pandemic has shone a light on CDNs as they are the backbone of much of what we do with video for streaming and broadcast. CDNs aim to scale up in a fast, sophisticated way so you don’t have to put in the research to achieve this yourself. This panel from the Content Delivery Summit sees Dom Robinson bringing together Jim Hall from Fastly with Akamai’s Peter Chave, Ted Middleton from Amazon and Paul Tweedy from BBC Design + Engineering.
The panel discusses the fact that although much video conferencing traffic being WebRTC isn’t supported, there are a lot of API calls that are handled by the CDN. In fact, over 300 trillion API calls were made to Amazon last year. Zoom and other solutions do have an HLS streaming option that has been used and can benefit from CDN scaling. Dom asks whether people’s expectations have changed during the pandemic and then we hear from Paul as he talks a little about the BBC’s response to Covid.
THE CTA’s Common Media Client Data standard, also known as CTA 5004, is a way for a video player to pass info back to the CDN. In fact, this is so powerful that it can provide highly granular real-time reports for customers but also enables hints to be handed back from the players so the CDNs can pre-fetch content that is likely to be needed. Furthermore, having a standard for logging will be great for customers who are multi-CDN and need a way to match logs and analyse their system in its entirety. This work is also being extended, under a separate specification to be able to look upstream in a CDN workflow to understand the status of other systems like edge servers.
The panel touches on custom-made analytics, low latency streaming such as Apples LL-HLS and why it’s not yet been adopted, current attempts in the wild to bring HLS latency down, Edge computing and piracy.
Will streaming really be any better with 5G? What problems won’t 5G solve? Just a couple of the questions in this panel from the Streaming Video Alliance. There are so many aspects of 5G which are improvements, it can be very hard to clearly articulate for a given use case which are the main ones that matter. In this webinar, the use case is clear: streaming to the consumer.
Moderating the session, Dom Robinson kicks off the conversation asking the panellists to dig below the hype and talk about what 5G means for streaming right now. Brian Stevenson is first up explaining that the low-bandwidth 5G option really useful as it allows operators to roll out 5G offerings with the spectrum they already have and, given its low frequency, get a good decent a propagation distance. In the low frequencies, 5G can still give a 20% improvement bandwidth. Whilst this is a good start, he continues, it’s really delivering in the mid-band – where bandwidth is 6x – that we can really start enabling the applications which are discussed in the rest of the talk.
Humberto la Roche from Cisco says that in his opinion, the focus needs to be on low-latency. Latency at the network level is reduced when working in the millimetre wavelengths, reducing around 10x. This is important even for video on demand. He points out, though that delay happens within the IP network fabric as well as in the 5G protocol itself and the wavelength it’s working on. Adding buffers into the network drives down the cost of that infrastructure so it’s important to look at ways of delivering the overall latency needed at a reasonable cost. We also hear from Sanjay Mishra who explains that some telcos are already deploying millimetre wavelengths and focussing on advancing edge compute in high-density areas as their differentiator.
The panel discusses the current technical challenges for operators. Thierry Fautier draws from his experience of watching sports in the US on his mobile devices. The US has a zero-rating policy, he explains, where a mobile operator waives all data charges when you use a certain service, but only delivers the video at SD resolution at 1.5 Mbps. Whilst the benefits to this are obvious, it means that as people buy new, often larger phones, with better screens, they expect to reap the benefits. At SD, Thierry says, you can’t see the ball in Tennis, so there 5G will offer the over-the-air network bandwidth needed to allow the telcos to offer HD as part of these deals.
The panel discusses the problems seen so far in delivering MBMS – multicast for mobile networks. MBMS has been deployed sporadically around the world in current LTE networks (using eMBMS) but has faced a typical chicken and egg problem. Given that both cell towers and mobile devices need to support the technology, it hasn’t been worth the upgrade cost for the telcos given that eMBMS is not yet supported by many chipsets including Apple’s. Thierry says there is hope for a 5G version of MBMS since Apple is now part of the 3GPP.
CMAF had a similar chicken and egg situation when it was finalised, there was hesitance in using it because Apple didn’t support it. Now with iOS 14 supporting HLS in CMAF, there is much more interest in deploying such services. This is just as well, cautions Thierry, as all the talk of reduced latency in 5G or in the network itself won’t solve the main problem with streaming latency which exists at the application layer. If services don’t abandon HLS/DASH and move to LL-HLS and LL-DASH/CMAF then the improvements in latency lower down the stack will only convey minimal benefits to the viewer.
Sanjay discusses the problem of coverage and penetration which will forever be a problem. “All cell towers are not created equal.” The challenge will remain as to how far and wide coverage will be there.
The panel finishes looking at what’s to come and suggests more ‘federations’ of companies working together, both commercially and technically, to deliver video to users in better ways. Thierry sums up the near future as providing higher quality experiences, making in-stadia experiences great and enabling immersive video.
Real-world solutions to real-world streaming latency in this panel from the Content Delivery Summit at Streaming Media East. With everyone chasing reductions in latency, many with the goal of matching traditional broadcast latencies, there are a heap of tricks and techniques at each stage of the distribution chain to get things done quicker.
The panel starts by surveying the way these companies are already serving video. Comcast, for example, are reducing latency by extending their network to edge CDNs. Anevia identified encoding as latency-introducer number 1 with packaging at number 2.
Bitmovin’s Igor Oreper talks about Periscope’s work with low-latency HLS (LHLS) explaining how Bitmovin deployed their player with Twitter and worked closely with them to ensure LHLS worked seamlessly. Periscope’s LHLS is documented in this blog post.
The panel shares techniques for avoiding latency such as keeping ABR ladders small to ensure CDNs cache all the segments. Damien from Anevia points out that low latency can quickly become pointless if you end up with a low-latency stream arriving on an iPhone before Android; relative latency is really important and can be more so than absolute latency.
The importance of HTTP and the version is next up for discussion. HTTP 1.1 is still widely used but there’s increasing interest in HTTP 2 and QUIC which both handle connections better and reduce overheads thus reducing latency, though often only slightly.
The panel finishes with a Q&A after discussing how to operate in multi-CDN environments.
CDN Senior Product Manager,
Comcast Technology Solutions
Vice President, Solutions
Director, Content Distribution,
Disney Streaming Services (was BAMTECH Media)
Subscribe to get daily updates
Views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of SMPTE or SMPTE Members.
This website is presented for informational purposes only. Any reference to specific companies, products or services does not represent promotion, recommendation, or endorsement by SMPTE