HD Foxtel Play waits on better broadband

HD Foxtel Play waits on better broadband

Summary: Foxtel has said it is not realistic to provide HD IPTV in Australia until there is more ubiquitous high speed broadband.

TOPICS: Broadband, Telstra, NBN

Telstra and News Corporation joint pay TV company Foxtel is holding off on offering high-definition streams of its channels through its new Foxtel Play IPTV application until the higher broadband speeds are available across Australia.

Foxtel Play (Image: Screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet)

The new Foxtel Play service began operation on Tuesday allowing, for the first time, customers to sign onto the service on a month-to-month basis without the need for having a dedicated fixed line subscription to Foxtel. The product is now available on PC, Mac, Xbox 360 and Samsung smart TVs beginning at AU$25 per month.

Michael Ivanchenko, Foxtel's director of product told ZDNet that the design and development of the Foxtel Play service had taken the company around six to eight months building on the back of the company's Go app that streams content onto tablets and smartphones.

"One of the key things that we've done at Foxtel over the past 12 months was incrementally establish our IP video player. It has been very much a mentality that we need to move Foxtel to a realm where we can deliver content in any format in any medium rather than build a dedicated, end-to-end chain," he said.

After building the app, there was a 10 to 12 weeks period for testing on devices and in field trials. The backend has now been developed so that Foxtel can quickly develop new apps to take the streaming content.

"The challenge is not whether this is technically possible, it is now whether you make it sustainable and possible," he said.

The Play app itself is built with HTML 5 technologies, and the video streaming uses "pretty standard" bit rate adaptive technology to determine the best quality to stream to customers relative to their broadband connection, according to Foxtel's head of product solutions Brett Paton.

"The player does real time tests on the performance of your network, and we've crafted a whole range of profiles which are bitrate and resolution combinations. We did a lot of work in labs with our experts to come up with the right combinations across all the various screen sizes from small phones through to people connecting to their primary device via play," he said.

The service is not yet available in HD, and Ivanchenko said that this was because not everyone in Australia would be able to get HD streams on their current broadband connection.

"In Australia with the geography and the nature of what we have, it is not realistic to jump to a similar service we would provide for instance if we were in Tokyo," he said.

"We are over time going to see an increase in consistent bandwidth available, and that's the key one. We want to create a really good user experience that is totally consistent over time.

"As infrastructure improves, as availability of bandwidth improves, we're in a position to move with that and take advantage of that. But there's no point in jumping to that right now if there is a lot who couldn't take advantage of it."

The Federal government's AU$37.4 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) project will deliver greatly improve this situation, with 93 percent of premises set to get fibre-to-the-premises connections with speeds of up to 1Gbps in the immediate future. The Coalition has also guaranteed at least 25Mbps speeds in its broadband policy which would see 71 percent of premises connected to their NBN network via fibre to the node.

Implementing a HD stream for content would be relatively simple when the time comes, Ivanchenko said.

"It's not that we're not capable of doing HD, we're just conscious of making sure we get this service right and then we'll increase the bandwidth and the profiles to get HD right," he said.

Similarly, Ivanchenko said that Foxtel would look to expand the platforms and devices where the service is available when the company can ensure that the user experience on each platform is the same.

Topics: Broadband, Telstra, NBN


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • determining best quality

    Sweet, now, let me force the player to a very specific resolution and you'll be onto a winner. The Youtube App on iPad uses the same technology, and it is stupid when it drops the resolution down to a paltry 144p because it detects a momentary blip in the network connection.
  • best quality without lag and distance

    Downside distance hampers speed progression under a under a fibre>copper hybrid, max distance to the pit will be 2.7km with average 500 meters to 1st point..

    Vdsl2 only covers us for the next 6-24 month's in terms of speed, by the end of this year 1gb will be standard, making vdsl2 redundant another factor to consider is fttn is a D/A only deployment under current LNP policy no cost annexes to deploy past the D/A no cost annexes to upgrade the copper to a VDSL2 standard is going to cost more than it will cost to go direct to fibre..
    Jason Howe
  • HD

    i would get it if it were avaliable in hd.i get 10mbps i should have the bandwith.but i understand there waiting for the NBN so everyone can have access to it.cant wait for the NBN with 1gbps speeds in December.my area goes live in january.just hope labour wins the election.if liberal had same broadband policy i wouldnt care who won.
    • For you they have the same policy

      Existing contracts will be honoured; you'll get fibre.

      The rest are offered improved Internet service sooner and at substantially less cost.

      Funny the article continues to quote $37.4b; totally ignoring all NBnCo performance data and their corp plan (peak debt, opex, deliverables, etc). Spin can be amazingly powerful.
      Richard Flude
      • You want Labor back?

        "Chris Bowen unveils $30bn deficit in economic statement, but keeps pledge to return to surplus"

        I've never seen figures change so much qtr to qtr; they clearly have no idea.

        Debt, deficits & poor outcomes as far as anyone can see, spin and BS all they have left.
        Richard Flude
        • Labor clearly should do what the Liberals do

          ...pull some figures out of their heads then refuse to provide the costings.
        • Debt is fine Richard

          Didn't they teach you this during your MBA?

          A country can have debt as long as it stays reasonable per national GDP (currently 20 odd %).

          Our current Debt is now less than the national debt during half of Howards time in the job (Which was also during a mining boom) so I would hardly say the Labour party is being irresponsible.

          Regarding the NBN performance data, so when are the Liberals going to get their FTTN budget and delivery schedule independently reviewed Richard?

          How can you say Cheaper, Faster if your the ones making all the numbers up without oversight like the NBN. Doesn't really seem that fair...... what do you think ?
          • I've not an MBA

            so will have to do with my postgraduates in economics & commerce.

            Personally I don't find any govt debt defensible; it's trans-generational aspect offensive (costs not necessarily borne by those who benefit by it).

            However even in the economic literature there is no acceptable level of debt.

            "Our current Debt is now less than the national debt during half of Howards time in the job"

            I'm sorry? Current fed debt is higher than it has ever been and growing at a Greece size pace.

            I can say faster and cheaper because FTTN is demonstratively so; many real world examples.

            As for independent costings I agree. Far little information in their plan, their delivery schedule is extremely aggressive. Negotiations with Telstra, I believe initial discussions have taken place, will be challenging.

            How we forget the Rudd/Conroy experience; the abuse I received pointing out the deficiencies.
            Richard Flude
      • Yes...

        the whole idea that resorting to a hobbled version of a project that will leave us in Asia's dust, cost more in the long-run when this present hobbling is eventually corrected out of necessity, and in the meantime leave people receiving the internet at the same maximum speed as the connections that currently run into their homes (since the capacity of those connections will not magically increase), will all actually "cost less", etc, is not at all "spin". Next they'll be arguing that we should have stuck with dial-up.
        • Your position is indefensible

          The Liberal policy will drastically increase broadband speeds. Not as much as Labor, but a significant improvement none the less.
          Richard Flude
          • Whats your definition of drastic Richard

            We are currently 62nd in the world for actual internet speeds as measures by independent internet speed test companies. So my old ADSL2+ speed of 4-5mb down a bugger all up to........
          • Do you need to be first?

            Some of us believe where we sit on some Internet speed table is irrelevant. We're looking for good connection at an affordable price in as short a time as possible.

            6 years into Labor, billions borrowed and spent yet most of us still have exactly the same service; only spin of something in the future.
            Richard Flude
  • Today

    I sat in a lecture theature today with good old Mal telling the audience all sorts of lies and contradictions.

    On one had VDSL "might" be able to deliver comparable speeds to the NBN
    Then only Fibre is being rolled out to greenfield developments... what is it, is VDSL the future or is Fibre Mal?

    Then all the usuals we see here on this forum day in and day out... but the interesting point, I'm always stunned that he doesn't get asked the hard questions and today Myself and three other mates were keen to change that.

    Not one of us scattered about the room were asked to put forward a question. Mal was fabulous at picking the old... then the 18 year old students, then a slightly crazy looking guy and to wrap it up the leader of the NE young liberals .... as if he didn't know who he was. He didn't ask a single well dressed middle aged professional who looked like he might have had a chance of asking a hard question.

    I guess he's in politics for a reason, great crowed control.
    • None is so blind as a man who refuses to see

      "..good old Mal telling the audience all sorts of lies and contradictions."

      Like? Next example unkind...

      "...what is it, is VDSL the future or is Fibre Mal? "

      This was covered in the talk; fibre is prefered, however there's a cost consideration with retrofits that doesn't apply to greenfields.

      "Not one of us scattered about the room were asked to put forward a question."

      Obviously a scandal;-)
      Richard Flude
  • Another Point Mal Made

    He also stated "We might need speeds of 100 mb by 2030"...... damn I was itching to bring up Cisco's white papers on the subject but... he didn't ask me to put forward my question.

    "I think Copper can stay in the ground for along time"
  • Perspective


    Who has been blindly swallowing what spin to what purpose. ?
    Abel Adamski