The history of customer premises equipment (CPE) for connected home applications has largely been based on proprietary technology based on stringent specifications developed by the network service provider community. In recent years, however, there has been growing momentum around the idea of developing more open and collaborative communities to develop CPE.
Open innovation and industry-wide collaboration promises to improve flexibility and agility while decreasing costs and time to market for service providers serving the Asia Pacific (APAC) markets. It also helps accelerate innovation. In the APAC region, where the market for connected home solutions is rapidly growing and changing, open platforms could help network service providers (NSPs), CPE manufacturers and others deliver greater value to customers.
We sat down with Steve Coutts, Executive Vice President of Business Development with Wyplay, to hear more about the software company’s open approach to developing digital TV software solutions and the role these solutions can play in the rapidly evolving APAC market.
Coutts: First of all, let’s take a step back and look at the APAC region. This is a market that is highly fragmented. It is made up of many, many countries with many different levels of operators. In general, it’s a low-cost region -- and in some cases an extremely low-cost region -- with very low ARPU [average revenue per user].
The APAC region is also a market where the people are quite skeptical. And by that, I mean it’s a culture that says “I want to see it before I’ll buy it,” which introduces its own challenges to everyone in the value chain. It is a market that wants to see innovation manifest itself rapidly, consistently...and at a reasonable cost.
This is a terrific context for open innovation for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, open strategies are increasingly demonstrating themselves to be a platform that is consistently more innovative by nature than closed systems because we are able to get more talent to focus on common challenges and opportunities.
Secondly, for this region, there is always an interest in driving down costs and shortening time to market. An open platform permits you to take advantage of re-usable elements in the platforms. This is important because one of the best ways to develop applications is to re-use software.
With open platforms, it is easier to re-use software on a broader scale. This allows companies to create pre-integrated solutions quickly. An open community like Frog by Wyplay is optimized for developing low-cost platforms. We’ve put a lot dsx work into making sure that we can run on very, very cost-effective platforms.
And I think lastly, an open innovation community allows network service providers and CPE manufacturers to work with an enlarged community of partners throughout the whole value chain -- from the software all the way up to the user interface – without any kind of vendor lock-in.
Coutts: There’s lots of different examples. On an operational level, you have large operators that actually are developing their own applications from the community. We have a large operator in Europe, for instance, that has developed a very innovative solution based on the Frog by Wyplay community software.
We also have examples where operators take our software, not directly from Wyplay but from a member of the community, typically a set-top box provider with whom they have confidence and credibility.
Then you have operators that want the software as a baseline, but then they want somebody else to build solutions. We have done this with satellite operators.
In one specific case a large satellite operator that had been using a closed proprietary software, wanted to extend their solution into a new systemic direction. They found that they were unable to do it effectively in a proprietary environment because it took too much time...it was costly...and it was complicated.
By using software from our community, they were able quickly build a proof of concept while integrating third party elements to greatly enhance functionality. More importantly, they were able to rapidly demonstrate the new solution internally and get it approved so they could go to market.
That was a eureka moment for them in terms of innovation. The whole company decided to switch to an open platform completely.
Coutts: I can’t underestimate the impact of this. The credibility and weight of a leading CPE manufacturer with the reputation of Technicolor has elevated the profile of Frog by Wyplay.
Between Technicolor and Wyplay, the two companies have deployed millions and millions of CPE into people’s homes for service providers. We have done this for companies like Canal+, Proximus, and many, many more.
For Technicolor, this means their technical teams have access to a proven, open solution. Technicolor can now use the open Frog by Wyplay platform wherever they choose – for applications that support IPTV, cable, satellites, OTT, hybrids, or anything else.
And as Technicolor does this, their teams remain in control of their offerings, so they can continue to build their position in the value chain.
Coutts: The implications typically are all positive. Open platforms are quite transparent and modular. An operator can decide, for example, not to do the development work themselves, but instead absorb the technology through a CPE manufacturer like Technicolor. For the operator, there’s no technical management implications, there’s no negative downside.
In fact opens up the technology refresh cycle. By moving to an open platform, operators – and any member of the community – can refresh their solution that’s in the field very easily, very rapidly.
We have one customer that does it every several weeks for example, changing the User Interface, seamlessly, frictionlessly. The open environment allows operators and CPE vendors to become much more agile in development, deployment and maintenance processes.