The rise of OTT services in MENA brings with it numerous challenges but efficient satellite distribution can guarantee quality transmission while keeping costs consistent and reasonable, says Hans Massart.
According to a report by Research and Markets, over-the-top (OTT) services will dominate the messaging space in the near future in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). While this presents a sizable opportunity for players working in the space, highly capable and readily available provision of services will be needed to facilitate such a shift.
In the MENA region alone, the subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) space is growing rapidly, with Starz Play currently dominating, and Shahid and Netflix in second and third places. The revenue expected to be generated by the surge in OTT services is also high – this is expected to reach $2.13bn by 2024, largely due to the ongoing trend for more and more OTT channels, with SVOD services being added.
As consumers demand constant access to streaming options wherever they are, via any number of devices, requirements for the right kinds of connectivity are crucial.
Highly tuned and effective technologies must be in place, and for broadcasters with complex and demanding content to deliver, the technical capabilities to be able to produce the highest possible quality transmissions are required – even in complex and challenging geographies.
UHD Delivery Built to Serve
With services now going far beyond traditional voice messaging, telecom operators, by using the most effective technologies at their disposal, can offer a wider range of OTT services than before. The Middle East is a huge market for both global operators and OTT players, and the region is becoming increasingly savvy in its ability to capture opportunities when they arise.
As demand increases, so too does the expectation for ever higher levels of transmission quality. UHD requires greater bandwidth than broadcasting in SD or HD, but it is vital that services be optimised for it to be able to reach the required quality for mass-market services. UHD also has the capability to deliver UHD direct-to-home (DTH), in addition to retransmission on other platforms. With the implementation of the latest technologies, including DVB-S2X and high-efficiency video coding (HEVC), broadcasters, satellite operators and service providers will become more efficient as the pace of UHD uptake increases.
The diverse landscape of the MENA region can benefit from satellite, which can efficiently and cost-effectively cover huge swathes of the area. Satellite is recognised as a strong contender to work alongside and dramatically enhance mainstream connectivity. When used to deliver high-quality content to DTH customer premises equipment (CPE), it can offload congested terrestrial components for the delivery of live content or be used as a contributor to a content distribution network (CDN). It can also be cost-effectively scaled to a growing population of receivers and addresses increased depths of content.
The MENA terrain lends itself perfectly to satellite technologies, with extremes in environment including desert-like and mountainous in equal measure. Even in areas that can be physically reached and connected by terrestrial networks, the use of satellite is hugely valuable as a back-up to ease congestion for applications.
The possibilities with satellite are seemingly endless, and there is in fact nothing you cannot achieve with its strategic application when it comes to OTT services.
The satellite return channel provided by an efficient VSAT network can be used effectively for both CDN analytics feedback and support of centralised digital rights management (DRM).
In line with the rise in demand for OTT services, it is critical that quality content be distributed along with the ability to cover substantial and growing markets such as the MENA region. This is achieved with the application of the forward pipe, to transfer live content and feed the edge CDN storage servers with popular content. Following this, the return channel then feeds back CDN analytics to make cloud-based DRM possible. This can be seen in many use cases where no other terrestrial return channel exists.
High-throughput satellite (HTS) architectures continue to be a key area of growth for many operators, with offerings being made to provide equal services via satellite both on the ground and in the sky. This is especially the case in high-value markets such as mobility, which requires exceptionally high levels of throughput. This fine tuning of applications is set to grow as new technologies such as 5G arrive, taking the mobile space into more complex realms in terms of bandwidth allocation. In the mobile space, satellite is an attractive proposition for service providers, as its cellular backhaul capabilities can efficiently satisfy demand.
Striving for more
Although many challenges lie ahead for OTT services in the MENA region, efficient transmission can be guaranteed, keeping costs consistent and reasonable. Efficient satellite distribution technologies such as the DVB-S2X standard have been developed by the industry. As broadcasters look to rationalise operations and stand out from competitors when it comes to quality of service (QoS) and quality of experience (QoE), CDN analytics is a valuable tool, as it provides an acute vantage point to assess and maximise operations.
The focus of solution providers should be on ensuring our solutions stay relevant and incorporate the very latest technologies at every step. With so much rapid change taking place in OTT, delivering relevant and flexible solutions to customers is key.
The future holds advances in multi-screen devices, especially in growing populations across the MENA region. For digital satellite news gathering (DSNG) service providers that rely on a resilient and easy-to-use system, the amalgamation of satellite and terrestrial communication links will enable a significant and rewarding growth in pay-per-event billing, adding a welcome enhanced revenue stream in the process.