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Video Optimization: New Tools needed to Leverage ‘Caching at the Edge’ and ensure End to End (E2E) Service Assurance

by Sue Rudd | Oct 16, 2014

Mobile Network Operators today are looking to cache video content closer to the edge to minimize latency and jitter. They are now deploying vendor solutions that cache data for retransmission on edge routers at the base of the cell tower or even in memory on base stations themselves.

Caching ‘at the edge’ to avoid retransmission of popular content is often cited as a major driver – but that is only true for extremely popular content that lots of people are watching at the same time. The greater opportunity is to ensure that customers always experience superb video on their mobile devices by never having to wait for it, even if they are the only viewer on a cell site.  To achieve this it is critically important that mobile devices/screens have content instantly accessible. Pre-caching a few frames of streaming or broadcast video ‘at the edge’ is one of several ways to help keep the device buffer full or even to provide a ‘virtual buffer extension’ on the router or base station for devices with limited memory.

Strategy Analytics estimates that about 60 percent of all traffic to mobile broadband enabled smartphones and tablets is video content – whether streaming, video clips, peer to peer or downloads. And according to Ooyala’s latest Q2 2014 Global Video Index “online video on mobile devices is on track to make up more than half of all online video views by the beginning of 2016.” But despite increased Mobile Broadband network speeds Citrix September 2014 Mobile Analytics Report recently pointed out that “video stalling continues to be present in all geographic regions on both 3G and LTE networks. Stalling duration ranges from 7 seconds to 38 seconds per minute of video.”

MNOs are anxious to minimize video issues that lead rapidly to unhappy customers and churn. So Customer Experience Management (CEM) and Quality of Experience (QoE) have become critical Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for many MNOs. And as a result they are looking to use their Optimization platforms to improve ‘Service Awareness’ as well as ‘Network Awareness’.

But both Adaptive Bit Rate (ABR) that is used by many content providers and Netflix proprietary coding are not amenable to classic optimization, nor can the network see the quality that users are actually experiencing. So MNOs are becoming more amenable to downloading client software to monitor service quality on their customers’ smartphones and tablets.

IneoQuest’s new 2014 capabilities have the potential to deliver powerful service assurance tools to help control End to End (E2E) service quality. In April IneoQuest announced its Audience Measurement Platform (AMP) for adaptive streaming that can correlate both operational and behavioral data in real time and integrate network information with measurements from end user devices. Last month AMP won four diamonds in the Broadband Technology Report (BTR) Diamond Awards because “it ties service quality to subscriber viewership analytics from the edge of the Content Delivery Network (CDN) or Edge Cache.”

But access and backhaul links are also becoming invisible. As Strategy Analytics discussed in the June Report Value Based Backhaul Monitoring for Small Cells - How Network Operations can Contribute to the 'Bottom Line', the LTE Radio Access Network (RAN) can easily become the blind spot in E2E network Visibility. Maintaining visibility across a complex LTE RAN with its multiple small cell clusters and partial mesh backhaul is increasingly difficult. Historically mobile backhaul traffic was aggregated at macro cell sites where routers or lower layer Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) boxes could monitor both connectivity and service traffic. But today downstream link level visibility at hub locations is lost when operators use IP backhaul beyond the aggregation point.

When combined with its smart probes for QoS and QoE monitoring, IneoQuest can capture thumbnail images every second for hundreds of programs that allow its AMP to dramatically accelerate fault isolation and identification of bottlenecks.

Video Optimization was never easy and it is harder now with ever more OTT content that cannot be seen (or touched) and IP links that cannot be isolated, Tools like those from IneoQuest are becoming a critical enabler for delivery of a quality Video experience.Mobile Network Operators today are looking to cache video content closer to the edge to minimize latency and jitter. They are now deploying vendor solutions that cache data for retransmission on edge routers at the base of the cell tower or even in memory on base stations themselves.

Caching ‘at the edge’ to avoid retransmission of popular content is often cited as a major driver – but that is only true for extremely popular content that lots of people are watching at the same time. The greater opportunity is to ensure that customers always experience superb video on their mobile devices by never having to wait for it, even if they are the only viewer on a cell site.  To achieve this it is critically important that mobile devices/screens have content instantly accessible. Pre-caching a few frames of streaming or broadcast video ‘at the edge’ is one of several ways to help keep the device buffer full or even to provide a ‘virtual buffer extension’ on the router or base station for devices with limited memory.

Strategy Analytics estimates that about 60 percent of all traffic to mobile broadband enabled smartphones and tablets is video content – whether streaming, video clips, peer to peer or downloads. And according to Ooyala’s latest Q2 2014 Global Video Index “online video on mobile devices is on track to make up more than half of all online video views by the beginning of 2016.” But despite increased Mobile Broadband network speeds Citrix September 2014 Mobile Analytics Report recently pointed out that “video stalling continues to be present in all geographic regions on both 3G and LTE networks. Stalling duration ranges from 7 seconds to 38 seconds per minute of video.”

MNOs are anxious to minimize video issues that lead rapidly to unhappy customers and churn. So Customer Experience Management (CEM) and Quality of Experience (QoE) have become critical Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for many MNOs. And as a result they are looking to use their Optimization platforms to improve ‘Service Awareness’ as well as ‘Network Awareness’.

But both Adaptive Bit Rate (ABR) that is used by many content providers and Netflix proprietary coding are not amenable to classic optimization, nor can the network see the quality that users are actually experiencing. So MNOs are becoming more amenable to downloading client software to monitor service quality on their customers’ smartphones and tablets.

IneoQuest’s new 2014 capabilities have the potential to deliver powerful service assurance tools to help control End to End (E2E) service quality. In April IneoQuest announced its Audience Measurement Platform (AMP) for adaptive streaming that can correlate both operational and behavioral data in real time and integrate network information with measurements from end user devices. Last month AMP won four diamonds in the Broadband Technology Report (BTR) Diamond Awards because “it ties service quality to subscriber viewership analytics from the edge of the Content Delivery Network (CDN) or Edge Cache.”

But access and backhaul links are also becoming invisible. As Strategy Analytics discussed in the June Report Value Based Backhaul Monitoring for Small Cells - How Network Operations can Contribute to the 'Bottom Line', the LTE Radio Access Network (RAN) can easily become the blind spot in E2E network Visibility. Maintaining visibility across a complex LTE RAN with its multiple small cell clusters and partial mesh backhaul is increasingly difficult. Historically mobile backhaul traffic was aggregated at macro cell sites where routers or lower layer Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) boxes could monitor both connectivity and service traffic. But today downstream link level visibility at hub locations is lost when operators use IP backhaul beyond the aggregation point.

When combined with its smart probes for QoS and QoE monitoring, IneoQuest can capture thumbnail images every second for hundreds of programs that allow its AMP to dramatically accelerate fault isolation and identification of bottlenecks.

Video Optimization was never easy and it is harder now with ever more OTT content that cannot be seen (or touched) and IP links that cannot be isolated, Tools like those from IneoQuest are becoming a critical enabler for delivery of a quality Video experience.

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