Broadband Networks Must Be ‘Reimagined’ For Cloud And Video

Huawei says current networks are built for audio and web and must be simplified, data centre-centric and software defined as video becomes priority

Broadband providers must re-imagine their network infrastructure to cope with growing demand for video and cloud services, according to Huawei.

The company claims the traffic characteristics of enterprise video and consumer entertainment services are dramatically different from the audio and web traffic that many current networks are optimised for.

Video services, it says, will require not only higher bandwidth but also low latency and high throughput, while customers will not tolerate any loss in connection. Minimising packet loss therefore becomes essential – a feat more easily achieved on fibre than copper.

Network optimisation

Netflix TV“When we move from web browsing traffic to 4K video, [the traffic profile] moves from bursts to almost continuous,” explained Daniel Tang, Huawei fixed network CTO, at the Huawei Ultra Broadband Forum in Madrid. “10Mbps, 30Mbps is needed and you can no longer have high concentration in your network.”

Tang says telcos will need to simplify their infrastructure by reducing aggregation layers and using network functional virtualisation (NFV). Similarly, software defined networks (SDN) will allow providers to install software updates rapidly, making them more able to respond to customer demands and coexist with over the top (OTT) rivals.

For example, a video provider like Netflix, an e-commerce giant or cloud service firm might need greater bandwidth to cope with an exceptional period of demand. This B2I (Business to Internet Services) market can provide significant opportunities for telcos, Tang said.

“Network modernisation is needed to deliver the gigaband promise,” he added.

Quality benchmark

Huawei believes video will account for 80 percent of all Internet traffic by 2019 as streaming services gain popularity and 4K video and virtual reality technology becomes mainstream.

The question of whether broadband networks merely become facilitators for OTT video providers or telcos can gain a slice of the revenues is still up for debate, but in either eventuality, customers will demand a quality of service.

Huawei says the time has come for a quality benchmark for video services, similar to the MOS standard used to determine the performance of audio. A score between 1 and 5 is given according to “simple” factors like drop rate, success, call connection, delay and handover success rate.

The company says video is much more complex because of the sheer number of variables like buffering, frame rate, cloud, freezing and loading time. A system called ‘vMOS’ was proposed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in 2009, but Huawei says this benchmark failed to take into account the video scenarios present today.

It says video is now an essential part of the broadband experience, used by enterprises for logistics and security as well as video services. It has proposed ‘UvMOS’, which has three main strands of criteria.

Quality takes into account factors like resolution, colour gamut and frame rate with the perfect stream offering ‘zero’ distortion. Interaction measures loading times, channel switching speed and seek response times to determine delays and View assesses blocking or stalling.

One 1080p stream might have a score of 4.62 on a 5.5 inch display but just 4.2 on a 42 inch screen, while a 360p video might get 3.38 on a handheld device but a 2.37 on the big screen.

“User experience is the foundation. We must have a system to measure today’s experience,” said Huawei’s Ken Wang, adding it wanted to work with telcos and content providers to establish the standard.  “This is our contribution to the industry.”

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