Telstra, the Australian telecommunications company, plans to provide live channels over the internet at a quality comparable to broadcast television. Telstra BigPond TV already offers a number of news, sport and music television channels plus movies on demand. Using adaptive streaming from Widevine, Telstra aims to offer television quality services to a range of devices, including televisions and Blu-ray disc players from LG and Samsung, followed by its own T-Box hybrid broadcast and broadband set-top box in 2011.
The Widevine adaptive bit-rate system constantly chooses the appropriate video quality to stream based on the bandwidth available at the destination device.
“It will ensure that customers watching BigPond TV will enjoy the same high-quality experience as customers have come to expect from traditional broadcast TV,” said Telstra’s head of IPTV, Ben Kinealy. “Telstra is delighted to be the first in the world to offer this.”
It is not clear exactly what is claimed as a world first. Brian Baker, the chief executive of Widevine, described it as “a significant leap forward in the industry,” while adding that “our technology has been selected over and over again by numerous customers around the world”.
Telecommunications companies have for many years been able to offer television quality services over the networks, typically using multicast to deliver live streams. The difference here is delivering high quality over the top of a best efforts broadband network. The irony is that adaptive streaming is designed to compensate for the variable bandwidth of many broadband network connections.
Again, adaptive streaming is nothing new but what is interesting is that a telecommunications provider is adopting this approach, rather than insisting on the benefits of a quality of service managed network.
Telstra is understood to be planning to bring pay-television services from its joint venture Foxtel to its T-Box internet television platform, formally launched in June. The T-Box competes with offerings from TiVo and Foxtel IQ, and the Fetch TV service that has also been launched in Australia.
Widevine, perhaps best known as a provider of content protection, provides a platform that can deliver downloads and streams over a content distribution network, peer network or managed network, to devices from mobile phones to network-connected televisions.