Rebuild Value for Telecom Video: From a Value-added Service to a Fundamental Service

1. New opportunities for video: to be a fundamental service for carriers

With the popularity of smart devices and fast growth of network bandwidth, an increasing number of people are using video to transfer information and communicate with each other. In recent times, video has become an essential part of people's lives. In general, video service traffic accounts for more than 60% of network traffic worldwide. 

As the old Chinese saying goes, "the duck is the first to know when the river becomes warm in spring". As we embrace the video era, leading carriers are aware of the hidden power of video services. China Telecom Sichuan has launched the 012 strategy and, by leveraging its Fusion service's video-related advantages, Telefonica has won a large number of customers in the telecom market of Spain and announced that it is committed to establish itself as a video company by 2020. This shows that carriers have again realized the value of video service, which is no longer a mere value-added service for the broadband business, but the fundamental service and future strategy for carriers who wish to drive their service transformation and business growth. 

2. Video is the ticket to a bright future for carriers

WeChat is often seen as Tencent's ticket to the mobile Internet and is a basic and core product/service for fulfilling the company's connectivity strategy. Although WeChat itself does not generate any cash flow for Tencent, its powerful capability of connecting users guarantees its position as a fundamental service in the company's huge service system. 

With the rise of OTT service providers, the revenue and profit brought by carriers' core services such as voice and data calls are slowing down. As a main communication approach for the future information society, video boasts an innate capacity for connecting users, which establishes its position as carriers' fundamental service following the traditional voice and data services. It is safe to say that video is the ticket to a bright future for carriers. 4K/8K video has become the fuse for carriers' pipe value explosion, granting carriers an excellent strategic opportunity to avoid being pipelined and suffering from low revenue growth. 

Why is video the ticket to a bright future for carriers? What kind of long-term value can video bring them? 

(1) Video is a connector of carriers' future experience operations. User experience is the most important factor in stimulating people's insatiable appetite for consumption. The traditional pipeline operation of telecom services cannot satisfy future experience operations. Video can be effectively integrated with carriers' key elements of pipelines and provide supreme experience for users, linking users together and ensuring business success. 

(2) Video is the glue that carriers will use to connect up the industry ecosystem in the future. It is predicted that video will penetrate into every industry, including the entertainment industry, telecom industry, or the booming video application industry. Looking ahead to the future, how can carriers allow their services to penetrate into different ecosystems? There is no denying that video will become the glue that binds carrier capabilities and various industry ecosystems. 

(3) Video is the catalyst for activating carriers' pipe assets and maximizing the value of these assets. Statistics show that, globally, carriers' data service growth is slowing down year on year and their MBB and FBB services are practicing the Red Ocean Strategy of price competition. The advent of 4K/8K provides the stage for carriers to find their value. Through video experience, the differentiated value of pipes recurs. 

3. Build the Hybrid Video service platform to promote video service value

Focusing on video as a fundamental service, carriers need to build five supply chains as illustrated in the following figure: the product supply system, technology supply system, content supply system, new service supply system, and O&M support system. 

If the service positioning of video changes, the strategy of infrastructure system building that supports the video service should be changed accordingly: 

Carriers who regard video as a fundamental service need to build a stable, reliable, and secure service system that is experience-focused, based on an advanced architecture that ensures sustainable development, ensures service launch speed, and enables carriers to improve their operation capabilities. 

3.1 Competitiveness brought by an optimal experience

In order to understand users' requirements for video experience, Huawei's customer design centers worked together with Ovum, an independent analyst and consultancy firm headquartered in London and specializing in global coverage of IT, and made a survey of users from China, the US, France, Indonesia, and Brazil. The three factors that have the biggest influence on users' video experience are as follows: 

  • Interaction quality

The survey by Ovum also found that users' most frequently used function is viewing schedules and switching between programs, and what they pay most attention to regarding their experience is the system response speed. There are two well-known theories in the industry: 

Three seconds theory: If the waiting time exceeds three seconds when a user is browsing through content or using a function, there is a 100% chance that the user will stop experiencing the service. 

700 ms pain sensing theory: When people touch an object, their endurance time is 700 ms. If the system responds within 700 ms after a user presses a button, it is taken as a timely response. 

Thus, when designing the interaction performance for a system, we must shorten the waiting time to within three seconds and try our best to keep the response time to within 700 ms in order to provide optimal experience and maintain users. 

Huawei's video solution provides zero-waiting interaction to ensure the best performance. 

Zero waiting for EPG browsing (< 0.5s) 

Zero waiting for channel change (< 0.7s) 

Zero waiting for playback (< 1s)

  • Content quality: 

For users, content quality mainly refers to content richness and content grade. 

1) In constructing their own content supply chains, carriers must ensure the content grade from the very beginning. For the different resolutions of different screens, various quality criteria should be in-built. The whole industry is in need of a unified quality measurement system for video. To meet this need, Huawei has cooperated with ITU to build the next-generation video quality measurement system, the U-vMOS, which effectively helps the carriers with risk management and content quality control. 

2) In addition to a unified content grade control system, carriers also need to build a new content supply channel to quickly enrich their content. Huawei's Digital inCloud video aggregation plan can provide a one-stop solution to quickly solve carriers' dilemma regarding lack of content. 

  • Playback quality

ITU-T gave the definition of good playback quality in its Y.1541 technical report released in Dec 2011: no video impairments during 4 hour playback. To reach this ultimate video playback quality, the ITU-T has set high requirements for networks, including packet loss rate of less than 0.1% and image jitter of no more than 50 ms. In our projects, we found that it is costly for carriers to build a network that meets the above standards. So, how can carriers effectively ensure such excellent experience for users? Video service platform providers have to think about new technologies to provide excellent user experience despite the fact that the network quality is medium. 

Huawei's FEC+RET technologies can help carriers effectively lower network requirements by maximizing the packet loss rate tolerance to 1% and network jitter tolerance to 1300 ms. 

3.2 Openness and integration, rapid service rollout

When video becomes a fundamental service and future user connector for carriers, carriers will act as super-aggregators, and the openness and integration capabilities of basic service platforms will be of great significance for them. Only flexible and open system architectures and integration capabilities can guarantee the longevity and vitality of products and services. Quick integration with different industries and quick response when user requirements change are the main challenges for carriers in operating video services. The key is to build a future-oriented open service platform architecture. 

Its core features are as follows: 

(1) Module decoupling

(2) Independent and expansible service features

(3) Cloud deployment that supports linear expansion of massive numbers of users

(4) External integration framework that enables third-party ISVs/DSVs to develop EPG/UI/OTT clients 

3.3 Systematic O&M capabilities that support scaled development of services

What are systematic O&M capabilities? There are three features that are different from traditional services. 

(1) Automated device management: Carriers need to develop their capabilities for network-wide device management and provide automation tools, such as one-click remote OS installation in batches, one-click remote software patch upgrade, and one-click periodic inspection, to greatly improve the daily O&M efficiency. 

(2) Visualized fault demarcation: The video service is a whole-process service. If the fault reported by a user cannot be quickly identified, various types of engineers are needed to provide on-the-spot services, which will sharply increase the O&M costs. The key to this issue is to build up an E2E visualized fault demarcation system. When a user reports a fault in the Call Center, the system can remind the Call Center of the possible causes for the fault, for example, whether it is a network fault or a system platform fault, and trouble ticket dispatching can thus be precisely performed to improve O&M efficiency. 

(3) Smart operation decision: The core to intelligent decision-making lies in data. A data analysis platform focusing on the video service is built up and the big data technology is used to achieve labeling operation for content and users, as well as deepen the understanding and knowledge of services, content, and users, refining the video service operation and improving profits. 

3.4 Secure and reliable services

Providing secure and reliable services for massive numbers of users is a long-lasting requirement for carriers. Compared with OTTs, carriers' services are safer and more reliable, which is a key factor for users in choosing video service providers. In the meantime, as carriers often provide video services for millions of households, if the services are interrupted on a large scale, this could severely affect society and the carrier's reputation and brand. Therefore, when building up a video service platform for millions of users, carriers should pay attention to service reliability based on the features of video services. 

(1) Backup of video source

(2) Disaster recovery mechanism of video service by region

(3) Multi-level disaster recovery mechanism of video services

(4) Upgrade by service unit in multiple time windows to avoid affecting service usage

(5) Security mechanism, including the OS security hardening mechanism and non-encryption mechanism for users' sensitive information

4. Video beautifies people's lives in the big video era

With the 4K industry chain maturing, 2016 will witness the large-scale commercial use of 4K video services. The excellent 4K user experience satisfies people's audiovisual experience requirements without having to go to the cinema. Recently, with the rapid development of VR/AR technologies, video will bring users excellent immersive experience of virtual reality in the near future and become a connecting force between people. The famous Chinese poet Yang Wanli wrote a poem to describe the beauty of the West Lake: "The emerald lotus leaves reach as far as where water and sky meet; and lotus blossoms bathing in sunshine exhibit a distinctive dazzling pink". Can you imagine yourself viewing the beautiful scenery of the West Lake through the eyes of virtual reality? In the big video era, let video beautify your life.