AT&T Beta Tests Virtualized TV Infrastructure

Carrier is on the forefront of network virtualization July 14, 2017
NEW YORK—AT&T is launching beta tests of a new software-forward “next-generation” video platform that delivers many of the features a virtualized distribution architecture—4K, cloud DVR, several live channels and 30,000 titles on demand in this case—across “satellite, mobile or your own wired internet connection.” AT&T provided few details about the platform architecture other than its capabilities, and that it would be beta testing this summer with DirecTV Now streaming customers and launching commercially in the fall. 

“We all want easy and quick access to our content, regardless of where, when or on what device we watch it,” said David Christopher, chief marketing officer of the AT&T Entertainment Group. “By developing for a single video platform, we’ll deliver new features and platform innovations in a faster, more efficient way. And it will be simple and consistent wherever you watch—TV, phone or tablet.”

This is where AT&T described characteristics of a virtualized platform without employing the term: “AT&T has been transforming over the last several years into a software-led company in how we design and manage our network. We’re bringing that same approach to video and entertainment by incorporating principles of agile development, open systems, collaboration with developers and public beta programs to more quickly bring new and enhanced experience to customers. Our next-generation video platform is a key component of this ongoing transformation.”

The carrier is at the forefront of virtualization. It developed a network operating system dubbed “ECOMP,” for “Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy,” that AT&T Labs vice president of technology, Mazin Gilbert described as “a software-centric network running on a cloud environment.” (See the ECOMP White Paper.)

The company offered up ECOMP for open-sourcing last March, which has evolved into the Open Network Automation Platform group comprising the likes of Cisco, Ericsson, Intel, IBM, Orange, VMWare and others along with AT&T. Earlier this month, carrier more recently invested $200 million to a venture-cap fund to invest in technologies that will run on ONAP.

“We believe [ONAP] is going to be the network operating system for the majority of the network operators out there,” AT&T’s Igal Elbaz said, according to Light Reading. Elbaz is vice president of Ecosystem and Innovation for AT&T Services.
A Bit of the ONAP Wiki 
ONAP is an open source software platform that delivers capabilities for the design, creation, orchestration, monitoring, and life cycle management of...
...Virtual Network Functions;
...The carrier-scale Software Defined Networks that contain them;
...Higher-level services that combine the above.

ONAP—derived from the AT&T ECOMP—provides for automatic, policy-driven interaction of these functions and services in a dynamic, real-time cloud environment. ONAP is not just a run-time platform; it includes graphical design tools for function/service creation.

AT&T said it would start rolling out this new TV platform in the fall, beginning with DirecTV Now subscribers and DirecTV companion app users. The carrier said the platform would eventually “look and feel” consistent throughout the United States.

Beta testing will involve invited DirecTV Now subscribers who will test drive the cloud DVR and other features. Things like live TV pausing and parental controls are on deck for when the platform comes out of beta later this year. Other features, such as user profiles, download and go, and 4K HDR are planned for 2018.

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