Service providers and content owners are being offered a new adaptive bit rate technology that is said to harness bandwidth more effectively and improve Quality of Experience in a multi-device home for streaming services. The Quiptel Media Platform uses a proprietary wrapper and then converts its Q-Flow ABR streams into HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) inside the device player. The technology is deployed with one service provider and was demonstrated recently at TV Connect.
The server-side management on the Quiptel Media Platform wrestles control of bit rate requests from the client and instead dictates the streams they should receive, based on their screen size and other factors. This avoids the well-known problem that ABR clients are greedy and always request as much data as they can handle, regardless of whether they need it. The Quiptel Media Platform can therefore balance the needs of competing devices more effectively.
The technology is also said to reduce packet overhead (the data needed to deliver a payload, rather than the payload itself) from a typical 50% to just 10% of the video data payload. Quiptel says it can deliver HD 720p at 1.5Mbps, SD at 850Kbps and mobile video at 130Kbps. The company also claims that it can dramatically improve the start-up time for streaming video, like when you switch to a new channel, and respond very quickly to client demands for more data, like if the buffer is getting short of video. This is achieved by opening up multiple streaming sessions for the same programme and then merging the packet streams into one once they are inside the client device.
â€œWe have our own version of ABR but it is a smarter architecture than the previous generation of adaptive bit rate streaming solutions,â€ claims Geoffrey Todd, VP of Sales at Quiptel. â€œABR streaming tends to rely on the clients making decisions, which could be an issue because no two clients know what the other one is doing. Instead we have a headend capability that manages the connection to all the clients in real-time.â€
This platform is available as technology that can be licensed and integrated into existing Internet TV solutions or provided as a hosted software platform as a service. Quiptel provides its own player, called Q-Player. This works on Android and iOS devices. This is integrated into the app provided by a platform operator or content owner for their multiscreen service. Other components in the system include the Q-Live encoding and transcoding solution and the Q-Streamer media steaming hub, which processes pre-encoded live TV and video for distribution to devices.
Q-Flow manages the network to optimize bandwidth and maintain consistent data flow to devices, and Q-Router sits between the devices and servers and uses real-time information to direct content requests to the nearest server with the most capacity. Q-Nav is a proactive Internet traffic streaming and processing centre that instantly expands a server group to improve network performance and output quality. The solution supports HLS streaming from the server to device, as well as Q-Flow ABR with subsequent Q-Flow/HLS conversion.
As with all adaptive bit rate solutions, the client understands network and local conditions and sends requests back to the network. The Quiptel client application considers how much video it has in its buffer when making its requests and will be looking to maintain a healthy buffer of video and not let it get overloaded or too low. The network management system is aware of what kind of devices it is dealing with, and therefore how much data they really need, given their screen size, to achieve a good QoE. It also understands the state of the buffer in all the clients that are requesting content and this is one of the factors it takes into account when trying to balance the requirements of different devices in order to achieve the best overall outcome.
In effect, if one device has a full buffer and another is running low, the second device can be given bandwidth priority until it has a safe level of data in its buffer again. The first device cannot keep hogging bandwidth at the expense of another device because it is no longer in full control of the data rate allocation. The three operating modes, in terms of the clients, are â€˜speed up modeâ€™, meaning give me as much data as you can, â€˜back-off modeâ€™, meaning I have enough and Iâ€™m happy with what is in my buffer, so only give me a enough to keep my buffer full, and â€˜trickle modeâ€™. Trickle mode is when the server is still sending too much and needs to slow right down.
One of the innovations in the Quiptel platform (and the platform as a whole has 14 patents based upon it, Todd revealed) is the way you can dramatically increase the data streaming to a single device when necessary. â€œIf the client is really desperate we can open up another TCP session so it can pull in as much data as it can. We can literally send the video in two streams,â€ Todd explains. â€œIn theory there is no limit to how many streams you can run but in reality we limit it to 16.â€ The different streams are merged in the device and then converted from Q-Flow adaptive streaming to HLS.
The Quiptel solution has already been deployed with an unnamed media group that wanted to provide an IP video service to an ethnic population on an Android device with a bespoke media player and UI. This customer introduced the Quiptel Media Platform (QMP) suite as a Software as a Service (SaaS) within its own network infrastructure. During TV Connect last month in London, Quiptel was demonstrating its solution with streaming of HD video to a television and SD video to a mini-tablet and mobile phone.