The Online Reporter

Digital Media & Broadband Industry News, Research and Insight

All-Fiber Networks Change the Way Consumers Use the Net

There are increasing signs that fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) deployments in the States may be greater than was thought even a year ago. Google has fanned the flames with its FTTH deployment in the two Kansas Cities and AT&T, perhaps feeling Google’s heat, has responded with two definite FTTH commitments and another 20 or so under discussion. Google says it’s also in talks with another 20 cities or so for deploying FTTH.

CenturyLink may also add some FTTH deployments. However, Verizon seems satisfied with the availability of FiOS in 70% of its wireline footprint and has said repeatedly it does not intend to extend FiOS’ reach. That may change if and when AT&T or Google show an interest in deploying FTTH in Verizon’s copper phone wire footprint.

It turns out that the biggest barrier to FTTH deployment is not its costs but state and local regulations that restrict its deployment and increase the costs of building FTTH networks.
FTTH’s speed is changing the way consumers use the Internet, according to a study commissioned by the Fiber to the Home (FTTH) Council Americas and conducted by RVA, which has been studying the consumer broadband market for seven years. . 

RVA president Michael Render said two trends are very clear:
- The importance of broadband to the consumer lifestyle increases with each passing year
- End-to-end fiber optic networks are becoming more and more differentiated from other types of broadband in terms of performance, use and perception

Heather Burnett Gold, president of the FTTH Council said, “The numbers in this survey represent what we hear from FTTH communities every day — fiber is fast, reliable and ready to meet their growing needs. But fiber is also letting people do more, from high-bandwidth health-care applications to powering the many connected devices in a modern home. The impact of fiber is large and growing,” said.

Major findings include:
- More people have fiber, and more providers are offering faster speeds
- There are 10.4 million homes connected to fiber in North America compared with 9.7 million in May 2013
- There are now 58 providers offering gigabit-per-second service 
- The need for faster consumer broadband continues to grow: Users report now spending over 5 hours a day at home online and are aware of 5.5 Internet ready devices in the home. 
- Broadband users under age 35 now report getting slightly over half of their video content from online sources.
- Satisfaction rates are far higher for FTTH than all other types of broadband. Users say higher satisfaction is based on both reliability and speed. 
- Based on speed testing during the survey, those with fiber optics all the way to enjoy far better performance. 
- Comparing both ends of the spectrum in terms of performance, FTTH versus DSL, FTTH is now 5 times faster on download speeds and 23 times faster on upload speeds.
- Fiber optic Internet is changing lifestyles. Consumers estimate that when it comes to the time spent waiting for applications to load — “gears turning”— FTTH consumers are far more productive. FTTH users spend 49 fewer annual hours waiting for things to load than the slowest DSL. 
- FTTH increases the value of the home. FTTH users work from home more often and enjoy a home value premium of over $5,000 versus other types of broadband.

And…
Until recently we have said that broadband speeds up to about 40 Mbps were more than sufficient for most households. With the decline in the prices of UHD TVs and the main source of UHD content being OTT services, consumers will soon need more broadband and home networking speed than they do now. Netflix says 12-15 Mbps broadband is needed for each UHD stream — it should know since Netflix is currently the only source of UHD content for all brands of UHD sets. Sony and Samsung have their own UHD libraries but each limits access to it to only their own TV sets. 

So, we think most consumers will need at least

 

 

 

 

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Nanotech: Three Levels of UHD Upconversion

We can say with certainty, having owned two UHD TVs, that upconversion is absolutely necessary in the current universe of 1080p HD content and that there are major differences in set makers’ upconversion technology.

Upconverting 1080p HD to near-UHD quality can be done in the consumer’s hardware — TV set, Blu-ray player or a separately attached net-top box. Makers of those devices say their upconversion technology is the best so we asked Nanotech how it does upconversion in its Nuvola media player net-top box and, because all UHD TVs have upconversion technology, why is it necessary? Its representative Andy Marken responded by saying:

“Upcoversion can be done prior to it being sent to the consumer or in the consumers’ hardware. Nanotech does both. Nanotech’s subsidiary 4K Studios is repurposing. It takes HD content, breaks it down by unassembling the various components and rebuilding the content in higher resolution — cleaning up everything in the process. Some studios with their own upconversion facilities are doing the same. There are other studios that simply upconvert by using ‘scalers’ to convert a signal from a lower resolution to a higher resolution.

“Nuvola will stream the content at the highest quality, bandwidth possible. It will also ‘talk’ to the TV set and say either: ‘We’ve improved it by X, you have upconverting capability and can improve X to X+5; or it can tell the UHD TV set this is true 4K content at the right speed so just leave it alone.

“We are in agreement with Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE) that all of the heavy lifting shouldn’t be dumped on the TV set, which is what pay TV folks say. They want most of the conversion done at the front-end and streamed at the best that’s possible to a device in front of the set that takes the content the last 10-inches or so.

“Nanotech sees two or three categories of UHD TV sets available now and evolving — not unlike the days we were involved with MPEG 2 hardware because computers didn’t have enough power to do it in software — that changed over time, of course. 

“In this case we’ll have companies such as Samsung, Sony and LG with robust upconversion technology in their sets. That’s also true of Vizio, whose overall quality has been increasing and whose UHD sets won an award at CES for quality and design.

“There’ll be middle TV sets with so/so processor units and at the bottom will be budget sets from the likes of Seiki, TCL and Skyworth that use cheap processors. The last group will always need an external unit to help them deliver quality content. 

“Nanotech thinks the top category will pretty quickly have all the power they need to handle the workload. Then the external box, the Nuvola in our case, will be one fantastic game system to enjoy all the Android and PC games out there. For these, there will be Nanotech’s UltraFlix OTT service, which is totally 4K and with genre type categories to choose.

“The answers to your question are and will probably always be: yes, no, maybe.”
Nanotech’s EVP of sales and marketing Aaron Taylor said the company has three levels of 4K:

1. 4K Platinum: 100% native 4K from shoot to edit and output. 
2. 4K Gold: 35mm film scanning with Nanotech’s set of Laser Graphic Film Scanners — 10-shots per frame, 3-levels of RGB and 1-white. Post-Process is for clean-up, color-correction and audio.
3. 4K Silver: 1080p proprietary up-scale. The most sophisticated and HQ up scaling techniques available today. It’s an off- line process so it’s done before the content is streamed.
He said most of Nanotech’s content is number one.

Taylor previously ran the commercial division of Roku where he helped build the company from a start-up to a $40 million a year business and the market leader in digital signage media players.
Marken said

 

 

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Upconversion: The Most Important Word When Buying a UHD TV

- Newest Samsung Beats out Newest LG in UHD Video Quality
- First Published Comparison of New Samsung & LG UHD TV Sets

In addition to writing reports for The Online Reporter, we are also consumers.
By Charles Hall

I recently purchased and used the two newest UHD TV sets on the market: the brand new Samsung UN55HU6950 55-inch and the brand new LG Electronics 55UB8500 55-inch. Both started shipping only in the last few weeks and most analysts and the press don’t yet know about them.
The test videos were UHD and HD content from Netflix; a variety of TV channels, TV shows and commercials in varying video quality from a pay TV service — Cox in my case — delivered via a TiVo STB/DVR; Blu-ray discs such as “Stargate” and local TV channels that I get from a roof top antenna. Over-the-air PBS stations produce the very best 1080p video quality followed by the pay TV channels ESPN and The Weather Channel.

Here is a summary of the results:

- Samsung clearly has a better UHD picture. It’s brighter, clearer and shows more detail, both in the foreground and background. When it’s playing high-quality 1080p content, it’s nearly as good as the UHD demos you see in stores. 

- Upconversion makes good 1080p content look near-UHD, which is what all the UHD set makers promise but not all deliver. Upconversion on the Samsung works really well with the proviso that high video quality 1080p content looks great, poor quality 1080p video looks good and SD content is usually hardly improved. Upconversion on the LG barely improved the video quality.

- Content that has been shot in native UHD looks fantastic, almost like being there. Netflix’s four “UHD showoff documentariess, “Forests,” “Deserts,” Oceans” and “Flowers,” are boring but look spectacular. They really show UHD’s potential as a “must have.” “Breaking Bad” is also especially good, but older films such as “Ghostbusters” and Philadelphia” are not, despite Netflix calling them UHD. 

- On a scale of one to 10, with ten being the best, UHD is a 10, HD is a 7 and SD is a 2. UHD is clearly better than HD but not by as wide a margin as HD was better than SD. When HD sets first appeared, consumers immediately thought “I want one now to watch the next game.” With UHD, it’s more like “When I buy my next TV set I want a UHD model.”
There are other non-UHD related functions worth noting:

- The LG interface is slightly better than Samsung’s, to us at least, but LG’s on-screen cursor is a bit jumpier and harder to control than Samsung’s.

- Samsung’s UHD set allows simultaneous audio playback through both the TV set and a connected surround sound system, which the LG does not. That means that the user frequently has to go into the LG’s menus to change from the TV speakers to the surround system and vice versa. Oddly, my four-year old LG also worked like the Samsung, not like the LG UHD set.

- Both units were relatively easy to install and set-up. 
In summary, we did not keep the LG UHD set for which we paid $1,699 — it wasn’t that much better than my four-year old LG HD set that still produces beautiful 1080p HD. We are definitely keeping the Samsung UHD set that we bought for $1,999. The quality of upconverted videos and Netflix’s move to provide UHD content make it worthwhile to buy a UHD TV set now rather than later. If and when DirecTV launches a UHD channel, we will be tempted to sign up.

One recent night was spent flipping through all the pay TV channels. My conclusion was: Good 1080p is great when upconverted. Average or poor 1080p is OK when upconverted. SD is mostly not improved at all although a “Seinfeld” episode looked much better than on an HD set. It’s the old maxim: Garbage in, garbage out. That’s restated for UHD as: “Quality 1080p in, near UHD quality out.”

I am very much pro-LG — owning an LG refrigerator, Blu-ray player, LG Upgrader (LG’s version of Roku) and the LG HD set was the one I initially selected after researching the matter – but that was before Samsung started shipping its newest UHD sets. When I bought the LG UHD to see how well upconverting worked, I did not expect to…

 

 

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In This Week’s Edition of The Online Reporter…

THIS WEEK’S HEADLINES

                        Upconversion: The Most Important Word When Buying a UHD TV

ARRIS & Wurl Team Up to Offer Combination Pay TV/OTT STB

TalkTalk Beats BT in Broadband-Delivered TV

Electronics Retailer Increasing Floor Space for Mattresses & Vacuum Cleaners

UHD

It’s the Dawn of the Golden Age for Broadband and Home Networking Industries

How Many UHD TVs Will Be Sold This Year?

Barriers to Sony’s TV Profitability Starting to Appear

Nanotech: Three Levels of UHD Upconversion

Number of Google Searches for UHD/4K Is Increasing Rapidly

Sales of UHD TV Panels Boost LG Display

BBC Showcasing Future Technologies during Commonwealth Games

LG’s Profits Helped by Demand for Its UHD TV Sets

Redux: The CEA on What It Takes to Be a UHD TV Set

OTT

Microsoft Rethinks Its Living Room Domination Strategy

Netflix Selling through Verizon’s FiOS TV

DirecTV Now Offers NFL Games to Stream

Netflix Has 50M Subs and 11 Original Series in the Works

ENABLING TECHNOLOGIES

Broadcom Surges ahead in HEVC, DSL, Cable & Fiber

Bye, Bye Windows RT!

BROADBAND BEAT

Fraunhofer Is Leading Venture to Provide 1 to 2 Gbps over Existing Copper Phone Wires

WIRELESS BROADBAND

Comcast Will Build Over 1 Million Commercial Hotspots in US

MOBILE BROADBAND

The Cellular Network Is Now a Video Distribution Network that Does Other Stuff

 

LTE BROADCAST

Verizon Plans Multicast for 2015

 

LEGAL MATTERS

Netflix to the FCC: Don’t Turn the Internet into Cable TV

LIES, DAMN LIES AND STATISTICS

IHS: Sales of UHD Sets Increasing

TV and Mobile Spectrum Debate Heats Up in Europe

 

DIGI GRAMS

Nuvola UHD NTB Is Available on Amazon

Apple’s Big Weakness

Building Fiber Network to and on an Island

Netflix Will Develop New Talk Show The Way People Watch TV’

Verizon: Millenials Prefer Fast Internet and Few Channels

Aereo Didn’t Have Many Subscribers

FilmOn Faces Angry Court

BBC iPlayer Crashes Under Demand

LTE Broadcast Might Be Golden Egg’ for Mobile Operators

Criterion Collection Converted Hard Day’s Night’ to UHD

YouTube Working on New Approach to Generate Premium Content

-Courting Hollywood and Indie Producers

Two years and $250 million dollars later, not much can be said for YouTube’s 100 premium channel experiment. In fact, YouTube has virtually scrubbed all mention of the endeavor from its sites.

This week, Reuters reported YouTube was in talks with some Hollywood and independent producers about more funding for premium content, citing unnamed sources. It said YouTube is interested in transitioning more of the video offerings on its platform to premium quality, rather than user-generated. Reuters said YouTube may offer producers between $1-3 million in funds to produce content for the platform, and may contribute marketing funds.

Marketing is exactly what caused its first premium content push to flop. YouTube offered content creators money to produce professional video, but didn’t put any marketing behind those channels. Ostensibly, audience development was left up to the individual channels. Once the funding ending, many channels were forced to closed down or seek funding from other sources, whether donations or investment from larger media firms.

YouTube now says those surviving channels represent the top 2% of channels based on subscribers, though most of the channels are nameless and didn’t receive any mainstream attention. The recent marketing campaign YouTube has launched on billboards and subways, which highlights YouTube celebrities such as…

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