Internode deploys multicast to national Agile network

Automatic user qualification added for Agile users

Internet service provider Internode has completed a national deployment of multicasting architecture on its Agile DSLAM network, allowing it to officially launch FetchTV internet protocol television (IPTV) services since first partnering with the company last year.

The IPTV offering, which provides on-demand movies and television channel packages, is currently offered by iiNet with partnerships lined up for Adam Internet and Optus for the second half of the year. Internode initiated a paid trial of the service to a select few hundred users in September last year, and this week announced full availability of the service.

Internode’s offering will be split into two partitions: A ‘full’ service offered to customers on the ISP’s own Agile DSLAMs, and a ‘lite’ experience for non-Agile users which provides digital free-to-air television and a range of on-demand movies.

The official launch of the service on Internode comes as the service provider finalised deployment of multicasting technology on its Agile DSLAM. According to managing director, Simon Hackett, the technology was part of the Agile roadmap since the initiative began in 2005, but has been in expanded internal trials for the past year.

The multicasting technology, which enables a 'one-to-many' push of video content streams from the ISP to end-users, was deployed across Internode’s Agile DSLAMs in national exchanges as a second virtual private circuit, effectively separating any Quality of Service issues from the best-effort internet and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services delivered to users on Internode’s primary virtual private circuit.

The specific multicast model used by Malaysian-backed IPTV provider FetchTV is a managed platform, though the ISPs currently partnered with the company have individually architected their back-end infrastructure and bandwidth requirements to suit what they felt best suited their users. Internode product manager, Philip Dempster, told Computerworld Australia that the deployment had been a “reasonably challenging” experience.

The service provider chose a 5.5 megabit per second (Mbps) minimum bandwidth requirement for users to be qualified for the full FetchTV service, but that the service would consume an average of 3Mbps of bandwidth during normal use. Those customers on the Agile DSLAM network will be required to sync to the ISP at the minimum bandwidth speed of 5.5Mbps in order to qualify for the service.

“We tried a couple of different bandwidth requirements to find out exactly where the threshold of the user is; it’s always easy to have a theoretical number,” he said. The minimum bandwidth requirement was “slightly higher” than some FetchTV providers, Dempster said, and was chosen to offset any potential drops in internet speeds.

However, the ISP has already pre-qualified customers for the service using in-house software that regularly checks the sync speeds of individual users on the network and determined capability.

“If someone buys a new modem or changes their in-house wiring it’ll get picked up; it’s not immediate but it won’t take too long before it will,” Dempster said.

Trials have also progressed with the multicast technology at fibre-to-the-home estates, specifically those operated by Opticomm, and the National Broadband Network. Hackett said he hoped the service provider could offer the service to all fibre platforms by the end of the year.

NBN Co has flagged multicast as one of the few Layer 3 services it will offer on a wholesale basis but remains in trials of the technology. Internode has conducted separate trials of multicasting using a point-to-point circuit at some NBN sites in Tasmania.

With the official launch, Hackett said he expected FetchTV take-up to increase on the network. iiNet, which already offers a full version of the service, has 2000 users on its network, according to a spokesperson. In contrast, Telstra had sold 107,000 of its competing T-Box devices as of the end of 2010.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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