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MobiTV: The Challenges of Establishing a New Interaction Paradigm

An inventor listed on several technology patents related to media streaming and distribution, Cedric Fernandes serves as Chief Technology Officer at MobiTV, Inc., a provider of live and on-demand “TV Everywhere” software. He oversees the strategic direction of the company’s technology and platform roadmap utilizing his passion for conceptualizing and delivering true TV Everywhere experiences and multi-platform solutions. Over the past eight years, Fernandes has been one of the company’s key technologists helping to drive innovation in the delivery of media to all connected screens. He spearheads the company’s connected media platform, OEM partnerships and R&D efforts.

Cedric Fernandes

Prior to MobiTV, Fernandes served as Chief Information Officer at NetPace, Inc., an application development and systems integration company. During his tenure, he architected and managed enterprise applications designed specifically for wireless. Additionally, utilizing his deep experience with delivery across networks, he built an SMSC and ESME to provide text-messaging services to wireless operators and content providers while running some of the highest volume messaging campaigns of its time.

MobiTV’s connected media solutions are tailored for IPTV operators, as well as mobile TV and over-the-top customers including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Sprint, T-Mobile, TELUS, US Cellular, and Verizon. Video Edge magazine asked Fernandes what he sees as the biggest hurdles to full “TV Everywhere” implementation.

[MobiTV is using Elemental Live software and Elemental Server to deliver more than 40 HD television channels—including live news and sports and a variety of full-episode on-demand shows—for streaming or download to hundreds of devices through multiple pay TV, wireless and OTT partners.]

VE:What’s the biggest challenge you are currently facing in deploying new TV services?
Fernandes: When you’re in an industry as aggressive as multiscreen TV and video, it’s critical to move fast. However, fragmentation typically goes hand in hand with a quickly shifting industry and there is plenty of it right now. From device fragmentation to sticky content rights and siloed applications, it can become very complicated to deliver seamless multiscreen services without the right tools and team in place.

What CDN do you work with?
As a technology provider driving multiscreen services, our platform and underlying technology is CDN-agnostic. We have integrated with and deployed services with many of the leading CDN providers.

Is bandwidth an issue for your company and is advanced compression (like the emerging HEVC) the answer?
Video delivery over any network must factor in network capacity and device capabilities. Optimizing video delivery to efficiently use network resources is a priority for MobiTV. Effective video compression has a big impact on network utilization and perceived video quality. While improved compression technologies such as HEVC (H.265) play an important part in reducing network usage, it’s also equally important that we deliver just the right type of video quality to specific devices in a multiscreen environment. For example, in many cases delivering full HD 1080p video at higher bit rates may be absolutely required for a big screen TV, but could be overkill for a 5.5-inch smartphone device.

How difficult will it be to deploy HEVC technology in your plant?
Deploying HEVC for MobiTV is a fairly simple proposition. We were one of the first few companies to showcase a full end-to-end HEVC implementation a few years ago at IBC 2012 just after the standards were finalized. We are working with our partners to enable HEVC decoders on set-top box devices as well as on the MobiTV Connect HDMI dongle. Similarly, many of the leading chip set vendors for mobile devices are already beginning to roll out HEVC decoders.

Timing, however, for such commercial deployments really boils down to cost. Until we have critical mass of HEVC-capable devices in market, service providers will be required to support H.264 as well. This significantly raises the cost of encoding, packaging and storage for live and on demand media. This cost has to be balanced against the network savings from delivery to HEVC capable devices. MobiTV helps mitigate some of this dual cost by supporting on-the-fly media packaging thus reducing the storage costs and ensuring only content actually being consumed is packaged for delivery.

Understanding that you need both to attract consumers, at the end of the day, which factor is the most important path to success: quality of service or system reliability (for the consumer)?
Quality of service and reliability go hand in hand. As a consumer I expect video to be available anywhere and whenever I want it and at the best possible quality. Fast channel change or fast startup with no buffering is an important aspect of the overall quality of service. Similarly, the application usability and interaction paradigm is equally important. This is where legacy IR-based remotes fall short and where we believe leveraging the second screen to control content discovery and playback on the primary screen is an important use case moving quality of service forward in the right direction.