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Appear and Deutsche Telekom IT success story: latency busting OTT collaboration

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Innovative approaches used to drive latency over OTT down to levels on par with satellite and cable distribution

Appear, the global leader in media processing and delivery technology, revealed its latency busting OTT collaboration with Deutsche Telekom in a nomination for “off the shelf latency reduction in OTT” at this year’s IBC Innovation Awards.

The Challenge

As Germany’s leading telco, Deutsche Telekom provides industry leading products and services to its customer base. With research from Appear indicating that investments in broadband will have significant impact on the broadcast industry, the need for strong OTT offerings is clear. In fact, Deutsche Telekom predicted this as far back as 2019, indicating a need to drive down latency. It’s this long-term sight in the market that led Deutsche Telekom to select Appear as a partner in this endeavour. Understanding than any solution would need unshakeable reliability and incredible flexibility, both hallmarks of Appear hardware.

The Solution

After initial work to drive down latency on the back of the value chain by optimising player buffer and segment sizes, Deutsche Telecom set about honing the rest of the value chain. Having worked with Appear almost since its inception, Deutsche Telecom decided to use the X Platform as the centre piece of its OTT value chain. The X Platform’s extreme density made it an obvious choice, with its ability to fit several UHD channels with a large ABR bitrate ladder into one chassis, while maintaining very low latency and achieving the highest quality video over OTT.

A key part of the project was the desire from Deutsche Telekom to build the value chain with “off the shelf” modularity baked into its design. Deutsche Telekom used a “best of breed” approach to cherry-pick interoperable building blocks. With the pace of development in the OTT space being as rapid as it is, Deutsche Telekom understood there needs to be flexibility built into the system so that pieces could be upgraded and configured as and when is necessary. Unlike bespoke, purpose-built hardware, off the shelf units can be easily replaced. Creating a template that is easy to maintain, upgrade, scale and replicate.

The Results

The end result, after three years of implementation, product development and consultation is a fully functioning OTT value chain already in production using a channel from a well-known German broadcaster bouquet for validation and testing. Deutsche Telekom has already achieved latency figures on par with classic satellite distribution, given the same input signal, measured in both the production environment and in Appear’s Oslo testing environment.

Speaking on the collaboration, Koen van Benschop, Manager TV Headend at Deutsche Telekom Technik GmbH said, “OTT is going to be a decisive battleground for operators. Though satellite and cable are currently more popular among German customers, the tides are turning. Customers want choice in how they interact with content, they want full control over what they watch and when.

The next generation of viewers are native OTT consumers, so to keep pace with them we needed to develop our OTT capabilities. We’ve worked with Appear for a long time, the modularity and flexibility of their hardware made them an obvious choice in this project. This is to say nothing of the unbelievable reliability of their units, which we’ve used for many years.”

Latency is a killer when it comes to customer’s enjoyment of content.” Said Thomas B. Jørgensen, CEO of Appear. “If you’re watching a key football match for your local team, the last thing you want is to hear your neighbour roaring in excitement 30 seconds before you get to see the action. That completely ruins the experience for them. Customers are often very forgiving of latency on handheld devices, but as it moves to the big screen that becomes unacceptable.”

Combining the established benefits of OTT with the live performance of cable and satellite will be crucial to winning over customers in the coming years. Deutsche Telekom are an industry leader for this very reason. They saw this shift as far back as 2019 and began early to address the future demands of their customers. We’re proud to work with a globally recognised leader in the telco space and look forward to working closely on other innovative projects such as this.”

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