Jean-Claude Sachot, VP of Software Solutions and Partnerships at Technicolor Connected Home explains the importance of open software strategies in CPE for NSP’s.
Sachot: There is a paradox for the connected home CPE industry in that innovation has been delivered to consumers at an accelerated pace over the past years, fueled by the rise of cloud-based solutions enabling new high value propositions for consumers. At the same time many service providers who deploy devices at their customers’ premises clearly see that they are falling behind.
This is especially true in some regions, notably the APAC region, where many small or mid-sized operators do not receive innovative devices quickly enough from their CPE suppliers, putting their businesses at risk. The main reason is that this industry is highly fragmented, with tons of vendors all busy addressing only a handful of operators, spending their time and money doing exactly the same thing as their competitors. Basically, they all reuse the same core software components; they all develop the same missing components and integrate those.
Most of their time and money is spent fixing their own bugs and resolving their integration issues. And in the end, they deliver pretty much the same solution as their competitors do.
Unfortunately, it is at a cost that prevents them from delivering true innovation and differentiation for their customers. In essence, they re-invent the wheel in their closed worlds, but don’t contribute much to rolling out the latest innovations faster.
An open software strategy is a catalyst for innovation because its main purpose is to capitalize on what has already been developed and proven right. This means reusing a software component or solution with the goal to build something greater or tailored for a particular operator, as opposed to developing the whole thing from scratch.
However, such a strategy requires access to all existing software design information and documents, starting with the source code itself. This is the working principle that has made Linux a great industry success. Working that way, any device vendor can spend his development time and budget on true innovation and value creation, addressing, better and faster, the real issues that matter to his customers.
One last comment of importance: this model requires true cooperation within the community that shares the source code software, whereby members can freely take and adapt, but also contribute back for the benefit of the community.
Sachot: Many service providers in the region are small to mid-sized players and they operate in countries where their revenue per customer is fairly low. Their capex budget is therefore highly constrained, and because the volume of devices they can purchase is limited, they get little attention from the CPE vendors.
By joining forces in a truly open software community and focusing on the operators’ needs and goals, the CPE device manufacturers together with the software and other system component vendors can deliver more rapidly and at a much lower cost the latest technology innovations.
This is even more obvious now that the online video revolution has triggered the convergence towards a few key system protocols. These protocols will help many operators achieve their “developed once, run everywhere” ambitions if they can be packaged together properly and broadly adopted.
This is how a community delivers a great value proposition to the benefit of the service providers and their customers. Procuring CPE devices, system components, solutions and services from a community such as Frog by Wyplay puts the small to mid-sized operators at the forefront of innovation.
Sachot: Technicolor has already successfully demonstrated this model by contributing several open source software components to the RDK-B open software initiative led by Comcast for cable broadband devices. The cable broadband industry at large has immediately reaped the benefits of this contribution, which came in addition to several contributions from other players. The community has since taken innovation to the next step without spending unnecessary money reinventing the wheel. Frog by Wyplay is exactly the same initiative, addressing the video device segment this time.
Sachot: The Frog by Wyplay community addresses all sizes and categories of operators, but their needs differ depending on their size and the local market conditions of their operations. Some of them require specific customization of the CPE software, whereas others can be addressed with pretty much what is available from the community.
In all cases, the conditions of fair competition between all CPE vendors are guaranteed because all of them have access to the same open source software. This is very important for the operators because it helps them drive their capex down. At the same time, an innovative CPE vendor that an operator would select can always leverage the community software and build additional innovation on top, addressing the time to market and value creation requirements of the operator.
With our deep knowledge and experience of the various digital video ecosystems, our countless innovations in video compression technologies --notably Advanced HDR by Technicolor for video production and delivery --and our outstanding experience of successful integrations and certifications of set-top boxes in all regions, Technicolor is uniquely positioned to deliver great innovation to all APAC operators, regardless of their size and their capex budget. Technicolor’s worldwide footprint is able to quickly bring the innovation that originates from other regions into APAC.
Sachot: Another benefit of an open software strategy that we have not discussed yet relates to the operational expenditures that an operator faces for the maintenance of the installed base of devices throughout their lifetime, which is usually anywhere between 7 to more than 10 years.
Software maintenance encompasses the software feature upgrades that are necessary to enable new services over time and keep the installed base competitive. With an open software strategy, it is much easier and cost effective for all parties because all members of the community have access to same software, regardless of their contributions to the ecosystem.
As a result, an operator can, for example, decide that the maintenance might be operated by a third party company such as a low cost base software development house regardless of who the CPE vendor is or was. So when one adds up the time to market advantage, the competitive advantage offered by quick innovation and differentiation, as well as the lower operational costs, the financial and economic implications as measured by the total cost of ownership are huge and definitely worth comparing very carefully with those of a vertically integrated solution.
Sachot: As I said, one guiding principle is that the community members play by the rules so the community remains not only alive but healthy enough to truly enable innovation. In this regard, contributions are key, especially those at the leading edge.
Equally important are the active animation and management of the community, the availability of state of the art administration tools and processes for code repository, and the availability of test suites. These are expectations that Technicolor can also contribute towards meeting. The combined power of the active members of a community greatly facilitates and accelerates the management and delivery of new technologies as they become available.