Multicasting in a unicast world

If we're all watching on-demand videos, should we care how expensive NBN Co's multicast product is?
Written by Phil Dobbie, Contributor

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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

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