T-Labs, the Research & Innovation (R&I) arm of Deutsche Telekom Group, has unveiled a prototype of a virtual set-top box (vSTB) and given its first public presentation about the technology and the ambitions Deutsche Telekom has for it. The presentation earlier this week is a significant milestone for STB virtualization technology, which the telecoms giant says will enable ultra-modern and resource-hungry User Interfaces to be displayed in a fluid manner on even older and low-performance customer premise equipment (CPE). This means faster innovation cycles and cost savings, Deutsche Telekom expects.
T-Labs says the primary goal of virtualizing the set-top box is to move the execution of applications to the cloud. From there, the apps run in a standardized web browser and are transmitted to various devices as a video data stream (H.264/H.265). The process can be used with HDMI dongles, Smart TVs, tablets, PCs and smartphones as the receiving client devices. â€œActivities for developing initial marketing strategies will be discussed later,â€ the company noted.
We previously reported on the aims of this project (Deutsche Telekom studying whether virtual STB is viable) and at the â€˜Network Dayâ€™ media event in Berlin the company provided more details, while Thomas Staneker, Head of Shared Service Center TV, which belongs to Technology Europe in the Deutsche Telekom Group, demonstrated the approach and the current prototype. This prototype has been used in tests at OTE in Greece (DT has a 40% stake in the Greek triple-play provider).
T-Labs reported on the success of its field trials. The company started investigating this concept as early as 2011 but developed and tested a variety of prototypes over the last two years. It worked with a number of partners, one of which is ActiveVideo and you can read our analysis of their cloud UI solution in the context of its use with connected TV devices here (The cloud UI could improve Connected TV prospects)
â€œBoth the robustness of the technology and its acceptance by users were tested, comprehensively and successfully, at internal technical units in Germany and by â€˜friendly usersâ€™ in the network of Greek company OTE,â€ T-Labs reported. â€œAnother test will take place during the last quarter of 2013, within the scope of the TeraStream field trial in Croatia.â€
T-Labs says that previously deployed set-top boxes are an increasing obstacle to the rapid launch of new TV services and contemporary, graphically pleasing TV User Interfaces. â€œTheir performance, particularly among older devices, is often no longer sufficient to ensure a satisfactory user experience. At the same time, upgrade costs rise or upgrades are no longer possible due to technical progress like the spread of new Web technologies.
â€œThe virtual, cloud-based set-top box decouples the user device from the development process, and thus from the life cycle of applications and services. Ultra-modern web technologies such as HTML5, CSS3 and WebRTC are used.â€
T-Labs bears responsibility for the entire virtual set-top box R&I project and also provides prototype middleware, based on HTML5, that delivers services such as a VOD store, localized EPGs (Electronic Programme Guides) and a portal for TV apps. This middleware solution is also used for other projects within the Telekom Group.
Other project stakeholders in this project, besides OTE and Hrvatski Telekom in Croatia, include the FMED Innovation Center Lab and the newly established TV Shared Service Center in Budapest, Hungary.
If you are interested in cloud-delivered User Interfaces, it might be worth reading our report from this yearâ€™s ANGA COM about Ciscoâ€™s SOLAR proof-of-concept (Cisco prepares for the cloud-delivered linear EPG).
This should be of interest too: 350ms latency for vast majority of cloud UI users
Earlier this year, Deutsche Telekom spoke on the theme, â€˜Is the virtual set-top box viable for IPTV?â€™ during an off-the-record session at Connected TV Summit called â€˜Ending operator reliance on Set Top Boxesâ€˜.