As big video develops more and more mature, users have placed higher requirements on video experience. They hope to enjoy a better UI experience through big video, enjoy richer value-added services, and enrich their daily lives. Also, with fast fixed broadband connection, fiber-to-the-home, 4G prevalence, and the arrival of 5G, the big video service will usher in a period of rapid development and widespread applications. Big video has become a strategic basic business for telecom operators.
However, in the promotion of the big video service, operators are increasingly feeling that set-top box (STB) hardware capabilities have become the bottleneck of service development. Due to the limitation of STB hardware, some services cannot be deployed on the existing network. User experience is inconsistent and the cost of replacing STB is too high. There are many STB vendors on the network, and there are too many models. This results in a particularly long period of service adaptation and activation. STB hardware capabilities include resolution support and service support. The video service has entered the 4K era. 4K resolution will remain dominant for a long period of time because the advantage of 8K resolution is not obvious in a home scene. However, the growth of future services such as Big Video 3.0S, complex services, and large games will pose ever higher requirements for STB hardware, mainly in terms of enhanced CPU/GPU capability and expanded RAM/flash space.
Combining the development trend of big video and STB hardware, ZTE is the first to introduce its CloudTV solution (Fig. 1) in the industry, which can help operators solve the difficulties of business operation and development. The core idea of ZTE CloudTV product planning is to retain the STB core decoding capability and peripheral interface capabilities. The big video UI, services, and games are processed in the cloud, while STB simply provides the presentation function.
In addition to lowering the requirements for STB capabilities, the CloudTV solution shields STB vendors and models to deliver a consistent service experience. This helps operators solve the pain points in their service development and reduce Opex. The CloudTV solution offers the following benefits:
— Fast adaptation: The new service or new UI deployment only needs to be connected to the capability platform in the cloud once and does not need to adapt to various types of STBs on the existing networks. This enables STB to truly implement hardware and software decoupling.
— Fast development: The unified service and UI development environment reduces software development and testing complexity, thus resulting in a shortened development cycle for STB applications.
— Fast upgrade: The upgrade is completed in the cloud and takes effect in real time without waiting for existing STBs to be upgraded. There is also no need to consider whether the software versions of old and new STBs are compatible. All the STBs can be upgraded overnight.
— Less maintenance: Services are processed in the cloud, while STB carries only a light load. This reduces failure rate and Opex.
— High security: Third-party APKs are manageable and controllable. The STB security solution can be fast deployed.
— Numerous services: As services are deployed in the cloud, there is large space for business development.
— Good experience: STB carries light load, allowing for smooth operation, better user experience, and lower latency.
— Long lifecycle: Since its 4K decoding ability remains unchanged, STB does not need to be updated. STB has a long lifecycle.
Mature Conditions for Deployment
Technically, virtual devices and cloud services have become a trend in the industry, and the virtualization technology has matured for commercialization. From the network perspective, optical access has become the mainstream, and home broadband has entered the 100-megabit era, meeting the demand for network bandwidth and quality of CloudTV products. From the architecture perspective, with the advent of 5G, CO and AO re-architecture significantly reduces network latency. The move of edge computing resources into end users lays a foundation for CloudTV deployment. In summary, ZTE believes that the conditions have matured for CloudTV deployment.
ZTE's CloudTV products based on virtualization technology enable cloud services. Resources are flexibly allocated based on useractivity. The CloudTV products have the following technical features:
— Standard interfaces: A big video system has many network elements (NEs). CloudTV products use standard interfaces to connect external NEs such as EPG and CDN. Its element management system (EMS) does not need to be changed.
— Flexible deployment: CloudTV products can be deployed at the CR, BRAS or OLT side according to service and network conditions.
— Fast deployment: CloudTV products can be deployed with a cloud resource pool or purchased general-purpose servers. As the products adopt the NAT mechanism and need only one public network address, they are more convenient to deploy.
— Strong adaptability: CloudTV products support multiple user access modes including bridging, routing and NAT. They can be widely deployed and are adaptable to different networks.
— Secure network platform: The CloudTV solution is designed to run carrier-class applications, with its software and hardware architecture incorporating security policies and mechanisms necessary for smooth system operations. The capability nodes of CloudTV products use the NAT mechanism to improve security and reliability.
In the product development process, ZTE CloudTV team continues to make technological breakthroughs. They have gained rich experience in low latency, image quality enhancement, network adaptation, multi-screen overlay, graphics device call, and efficient coding. The continuous breakthroughs of these key technologies have laid a solid foundation for large-scale commercial use of CloudTV products. As technologies advance, products will continue to evolve. With the maturity of the ecological chain, cloud VR, cloud games, cloud education, cloud video, and AI interaction will become basic services of CloudTV products. "Technology leadership, cost leadership, and product leadership" has always been the core concept of ZTE Cloud TV team.
ZTE's CloudTV products are being trialed for cloud services by Fujian Telecom, with the goal of allowing new and old users to enjoy big video 3.0s services without changing their STBs. Moreover, ZTE has cooperated with Hunan Telecom to jointly build a universal CloudTV capability platform, and has successfully run the CloudTV trial with Anhui Telecom. The CloudTV products are highly recognized by operators and are expected to be fully commercialized in 2019.
ZTE's CloudTV products transform the traditional experience in STB operations, providing a new direction for the deployment of big video services. With the arrival of 5G, the CloudTV products will certainly become basic network elements that play an increasingly important role in the 5G fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) and the development of 5G big video. 5G will make networks accessible everywhere and make service ubiquitous possible. Meeting the technology trend towards mobile edge computing (MEC), ZTE's CloudTV products will have a strong vitality not only to bring users a more extreme sensory experience but also to help users stick to operators, increase ARPU, and bring about growth in both profits and user base.
CloudTV, STB deployment and operations, Big Video 3.0S