CSI Magazine caught up with Agama CEO Mikael Dahlgren to talk about how the company is helping improve OTT video service quality.
What are the main challenges in delivering OTT video services?
If you are looking at this from a service delivery point of view the fundamental OTT technology as such is really not a problem. Although the increased complexity with active clients and dynamic codec rates make the solution a bit more complicated, this is still manageable.
The main challenge for OTT providers is their lack of control over the entire delivery chain. Third party ISPs and CDN providers, as well as a wide variety of unmanaged devices, make it hard to manage the overall service experience.
Is it possible to guarantee service quality end-to-end given the huge number of parts in the chain involved?
Strictly speaking, no. At least not for OTT services that are available outside of the operators’ network. However, this is not really a big issue as customers understand that when they are outside of coverage, video services will not work.
What you can do is not to guarantee service quality, but do your best to manage it. By understanding service quality from the customers’ viewpoint and where in the delivery chain any issues arise, you can manage both the various providers in the delivery chain and the customers’ expectations.
What are the added benefits of having an end-to-end solution in terms of gaining a better understanding into customers?
Obviously, the broader the set of data you have available in a solution, the more insights and conclusions you can draw from it. But, as the value of the solution is really in the analysis, and not in the data itself, you must make sure that the solution can really consolidate information from across your delivery chain in a meaningful way.
One way of achieving this is, of course, to go with a single vendor, such as Agama, capable of providing an end-to-end solution. If you do integrate a solution from multiple vendors you need to make sure that you not only collect reliable data from the different parts, but that you understand how to read it all as a whole. This can be harder than it first seems, particularly if the semantics differ between the different parts of the solution.
Is Agama involved in improving the endclient/player side? If so, how?
Yes we are. Our solution can provide numerous insights into how players and devices perform under various circumstances and this information can then be fed back into the development process. We see this being used way beyond traditional testing of single units, it is increasingly being used for A/B-tests and statistical analysis, for example.
How do you think the media ecosystem’s perception of OTT service quality has changed over the last few years?
I think it has matured. The industry now agrees that OTT technology can be used to deliver excellent service quality. At the same time, however, there are limitations when it comes to internet availability that naturally applies to OTT video. We are now at a point where OTT technology is becoming yet another way to deliver video, existing in parallel with cable, IPTV and broadcast, and each have their respective pros and cons.
To what extent is the gap between Cloud TV and ‘traditional’ TV closing?
From a technology perspective, the gap is clearly closing. The classic TV operators are all adding OTT to their mix, both for their main screen offerings and their companion services. And at the other end of the spectrum we are also seeing pure-play OTT providers, such as YouTube, starting to offer live TV services, so the two worlds are clearly converging.
Going forward, what would you identify as the main trends in this space?
We expect to see a continued focus on understanding the end customers and improving their overall experience. This is not just about the technical service delivery, but the entire customer journey, from onboarding through to customer care to churn prevention.
We will also see operators increasingly virtualizing parts of their solutions, including moving functions to the cloud. This should increase efficiency and enable outsourcing to service partners, while at the same time, allow operators to stay in control of the total customer experience. More flexibility in deploying and running services improves operator agility, which is a key success factor.
This Q&A was first published in the CSI Magazine September 2017 issue.