From fall of 2010, British Telecom, UK’s leading provider of TV, broadband and telephony worked with Oregan Networks to integrate a higher level of security, flexibility and maintainability for its Set Top Box client software, to deliver on an enhanced content strategy, aiming to increase ARPU and Pay TV market share, in time for the London Olympics.
Legacy hardware feature uplift sets a precedent
Oregan’s middleware facilitated the introduction of new live sports channels and early release Hollywood content in Full HD, utilising 550,000 existing resource-constrained legacy Mediaroom STBs.
The project team set out a strategy to create a BT customised version of Oregan’s next-generation software, which runs on a multitude of hardware platforms including legacy STBs with limited physical memory, with no discernible sacrifices in features.
The in-field upgrade process was practically flawless, with all devices automatically upgraded remotely, with only a negligible numbers of upgrade failures, courtesy of a well designed and implemented remote upgrade methodology. The crucial goal of eliminating any need for ‘truck rolls’ was successfully achieved.
The new BT Vision 2.0 service (now rebranded as BT TV) combines Freeview DVB-T, linear multicast and on-demand content in Full HD, in addition to OTT catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer. The enabling software from Oregan combines a widely adopted group of open-standard web and media streaming technologies to deliver content from a multitude of sources, and to enable interactive cloud-based applications.
Facilitating project efficiency
Critical to the success of such a project is utilising best of breed code development and maintenance processes, along with efficient inter-team communications and program management to ensure that all stakeholders for the project are continuously informed and able to focus the course of an agile development process in line with the evolving requirements of broadcasters and the needs of subscribers. At several points throughout the project, the technical requirements and specifications of parties such as Freeview and BBC iPlayer were changed, along with changing needs from BT themselves, as they sought to evolve their service to keep aligned with aggressive competition in the UK TV market. The need to be flexible and agile is paramount in order to respond to such market conditions.
Future-proofing and maintainability
Working directly with Level-1 customer support teams to create customer insights and solutions for challenges arising from network architecture changes and the introduction of new User Experiences, enabled Oregan to address issues in real-time and with utmost precision.
BT is able to autonomously deliver regular updates to its STBs that are independent of Service Delivery Platform or headend updates, to ensure continuous improvement of the user experience provided to its customers.
The primary motivation points for the migration:
- Uplifting the CAS / DRM security model to the latest market leading technology and robustness standards, whilst facilitating a multi-CAS architecture, together facilitating new premium content acquisition plans.
- Breaking dependency on a monolithic end-to-end IPTV solution, to facilitate more flexible and agile introduction of features and User Experience evolution.
- Delivering a comprehensive implementation of TR-69 and TR-135 to enable remote management, diagnostics and analytics across all use cases of the BT TV experience.
- Facilitating detailed usage analytics and logging data, for feedback into back-office systems for deployment monitoring and personalised content recommendations.
- Enabling additional sources of content, such as the BBC iPlayer OTT service.
- Consolidating BT TV services to a single Service Delivery Platform, across managed network IPTV (multicast and VOD), YouView and OTT delivery to devices.
- Reducing the total cost of ownership of the TV platform over the medium to long term.
Delivery and managing risks
An initial Proof of Concept was functional in under 3 months, with a feature complete solution ready for deployment trials following end-to-end validation by BT in around 12 months.
The migration process involved an update of the secure second-stage bootloader, replacement of the operating system from WinCE to Linux, as well as removal of all Mediaroom software, being replaced by the Oregan Media Browser STB client middleware.
The final decision to migrate the prevalent part of BT’s 550,000 existing legacy STBs was closely associated with a dual risk: potential service disruption and loss of functionality. Therefore the roll-out of the replacement OS and middleware was managed gradually over a number of months, with migrations paused during key live sporting events.
** Source: Making Telecoms work - From Technical Innovation to Commercial Success - By Geoff Varrall: Increased PayTV Subscriber Base+,70,000 Quarterly new signings following launch of BT Sport compared with 24,000 in Q3 2010 and 40,000 in Q4 2011**