Multicasting in a unicast world

Multicasting in a unicast world

Summary: If we're all watching on-demand videos, should we care how expensive NBN Co's multicast product is?


The industry has previously been critical of NBN Co's multicast pricing, but is the product relevant as we increasingly favour on-demand video?

When NBN Co released the details of its multicast product last year, there was industry concern that it would support large-scale operators, such as Foxtel, but would be uneconomic for smaller content players. Now, John Lindsay, CTO at iiNet and Internode, says he's not sure that the product is right for Foxtel, either. Why? Simply because the future of television is on demand, which means that the pay-TV provider would need to hog two National Broadband Network (NBN) ports to deliver content; one for multicast and another for on-demand video. In this case, it might as well become an internet service provider (ISP).

If on demand does become the way we watch video — and streaming is something we'll tell our grandkids about — then is there any real need for a multicast product? Won't we have to accept that unicast, and the associated cost of delivery, is the way of the future? Jim Hassell, head of product development and industry relations at NBN Co, isn't convinced. He says that there will always be a need for live content, such as sport and news.

Irrespective of how content is delivered, the biggest concern for retail service providers (RSPs) is how much it'll all cost, particularly for connectivity virtual circuits (CVCs). Hassell says that if demand increases above forecasts, then NBN Co will sharpen its prices. It has to provide a committed return to its shareholder, the government, but it's not out to profit gouge.

"The race is to get those prices down as quickly as we can," he says.

Running time: 32 minutes, 22 seconds

Topics: NBN, Telcos


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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  • Multicast still has its place

    Live sporting events and reality show grand finales mean multicasting still has its place.
  • PVRs mean Multicasting is relevant

    At a household level, live multicast programs will be consumed behind PVR functionality to pause, rewind, skip ads and watch again.

    Even my 7-year-old already chooses to watch football matches soon after they end, enabling him to compress his viewing of all the action to half an hour. This is a practical option only because the program has already been received in its entirety, as it will be on multicast.

    In fact, I expect that the underutilised backhaul capacity during the graveyard shift will eventually fill up with back catalogue programming muliticasted for later viewing.
  • Bits Is Bits

    Ultimately, you will not be able to charge more for one bit than another just because it has a different meaning.

    Imagine a future where makers of TV programs can beam them directly into your living room, without having to go through TV channels or even production companies—direct from content creator to content consumer. Does that scare the pants off any big-company execs yet?
  • Their pricing model depends on it

    The ridiculous AUD50 billion+ price tag requires the free2air and subs upon television revenues to get close to commercial returns (required by Labor to keep it out of the budget).

    The project gets more comical by the day.
    Richard Flude
    • Just no

      "The ridiculous AUD50 billion+ price tag requires the free2air and subs upon television revenues to get close to commercial returns"

      False. The NBN does not require "the free2air and subs upon television revenues to get close to commercial returns". Also the cost is not "AUD50 billion+". All the information is out there and available. Please look it up and stop embarrassing yourself.

      "The project gets more comical by the day."

      False. The project was never comical and it is one of the worst shows on TV. None of the panelists are funny at all no matter how hard they try. If you consider this comical then you must have very low standards.
      Hubert Cumberdale
      • Something isnt false simply by saying so

        NBN estimated capital cost AUD36 billion + Telstra (AUD11 billion) + Optus (AUD 1 billion) + OPEL litigation.

        Then there's the blowout: NBN Co's Dev 2010 corporate plan (the only one) said the network would pass 4.2 million premises by June 2015; in May 2012 revsed to "under way or completed to 3.5 million premises" by that date.

        The costs will be much higher, fewer premises services, project timeline slipping. A 7% "commercial return" claim is comical.
        Richard Flude
        • Provide evidence to back up your claims

          You said "AUD50 billion+". That is false unless you can prove the cost will go beyond this (and you haven't) then it will be always false. (btw since you brought up labor in your comment the governments contribution to the NBN is actually $27 billion)

          "Then there's the blowout:"

          I’m sorry do you even know the meaning of the word "blowout"? NBNco may be behind but it does not necessarily mean a blowout. Please provide evidence to back up your blowout claim.

          "NBN Co's Dev 2010 corporate plan (the only one)"

          It is not the "the only one" It is the only one currently available.

          "The costs will be much higher"

          Once again please provide evidence to back up this claim. Also this has nothing to do with your original claim of "price tag requires the free2air and subs upon television revenues to get close to commercial returns" so please provide evidence to back up that claim too.

          "fewer premises services"

          More people connected to fibre ASAP is important. No argument there.

          "project timeline slipping"

          Not really. Regardless of delays the NBN will still take about 9 years to build.
          Hubert Cumberdale
  • isn't all cable programming

    on IPTV multicasting now? Meaning all the live cable channels like CNN and MSNBC? I know FIOS uses IP for everything - would make sense to us multicast.
    And even with streaming - on large networks (cable providers, large ISPs) enough people press "play" for same popular content within seconds of each other to justify multicast. I don't see it going away as a technology. Now, the NBN's product - different matter.