Alex Borland, Sales Director at Latens, describes the crucial things that you have to get right, while upgrading your network for the Next Gen services.
It's hard to over-estimate the influence that the growth of broadband internet connections is having on broadcasting.
Whether we like it or not, faster communication is calling in to question the old certainties about pay-TV content security. It is also conspiring to create nothing less than the most radical shift in the viewer's consumption habits in the history of TV.
As an innovator in the software-based conditional access systems (CAS), you would expect Latens to highlight flaws in the more traditional card-based alternative. But the truth is that the security of cards cannot be relied upon.
Through card-sharing websites for instance, viewers can easily defeat the 10 second scrambling change interval via broadband connection, as part of a piracy business estimated to be worth between US $2bn to US $4bn per annum. It's little wonder that most of our competitors are scrambling no pun intended to join the card-less fraternity.
The reality is that all card systems are hacked on a regular basis. A cardless CAS on the other hand can be made as strong as technology will allow today, rather than relying on the hardware that may be several years old.
It stands to reason that with an integrated software-based system, operators save the cost of changing cards every few years. Indeed this overhead is so substantial that even a known percentage of fraudulent access is frequently tolerated, simply because bringing forward the card replacement cycle would be more expensive.
But upgrading the network is about far more than stemming losses. It offers an opportunity to make positive gains, by offering a better service that reduces churn and new services that generate revenue.
Take for example the personal video recorder (PVR). Since its launch just a few years ago, the PVR has now become a standard feature of living room TV, and increasing on secondary sets for other areas such as bedrooms and kitchens.
PVRs deliver the on-demand performance that viewers have come to expect from the internet. But how much better this would be for viewers and without question operators if content could be accessed from a central source rather than being trapped on one PVR or the other?
After a good deal of thought, not to mention hundreds of man-hours of research and development, Latens has devised a Whole Home PVR system that captures and stores up to four simultaneously broadcast channels onto a single PVR.
All of the stored programmmes are accessible from any TV or computer screen, with no need for more PVR boxes or hard drive storage. Welcome to Latens ECO, the IPTV middleware that is ready to bring television into the 21st century.
Of course, the expectations of today's viewers don't stop there and nor do the capabilities of Latens ECO. Increasingly, customers want to feel connected, or remain online. So we've made a point of including functions such as RSS feeds and even webcam connections to facilitate global information as well as local contact.
The big question for operators is how to migrate from the system they use today to the feature-rich network of tomorrow. Clearly, ripping out all the old boxes would be too disruptive and expensive.
The change must be carefully managed to coincide with normal card and equipment replacement cycles, and above all the systems must remain functional to all subscribers.
Fortunately Latens can call on years of experience to make this process run smoothly. First we make a detailed technical assessment, then develop a well-defined 'cap and grow' strategy for managing a mixed community of subscribers.
As we know most of the suppliers to the main STB providers, we are not at the mercy of manufacturers who not surprisingly, are keen to hold onto their implementation secrets. With a name that means 'hidden' in Latin, Latens is pretty good at unpicking coding conundrums, and by the same token ensuring that the resulting system is extremely secure.
Secondly, we've learned how to sequence the operation to minimise the impact on the subscribers. While some years may pass before the entire network is converted, maintaining continuity and earning loyalty is far more valuable in the long run than a switchover made in haste.