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ThE MaStEr

Following in the steps of BT, two-tiered Internet comes a step closer

The UK's biggest home broadband provider TalkTalk is following in the footsteps of BT, building a new network specifically designed to deliver high quality digital on-demand TV.

Last month BT announced that it would be working with Cisco to provide its own dedicated network to deliver high quality video to end users' Internet connected televisions, computers and mobile devices. BT said it would be using Cisco's Content Delivery System as the 'backbone' for its open online video delivery network dubbed Content Connect. This, it said, was designed to improve the experience of watching and listening to digital content on the web.

Now TalkTalk has signed a three-year agreement with Alcatel-Lucent to build its own Content Delivery Network, which will run over TalkTalk's existing high speed IP network. Alcatel said that the CDN would put "content closer to the end user to increase the quality of experience for [TalkTalk's] digital on-demand TV customers beyond that which is available over the Internet today".

The agreement is based on the technology Alcatel acquired through Velocix, provider of Digital Media Delivery Platforms, last year.

"We are witnessing an explosion in data traffic over both fixed and mobile networks which is set to continue," said Paul Larbey, Vice President and General Manager of Velocix. "Our aim is to work with TalkTalk to develop an intelligent network architecture that can handle the extra demand efficiently while at the same time, creating the potential for new revenues by exposing the assets within the network in a secure way."

TalkTalk, as with BT, is gearing up for the launch of YouView next year, the Internet-connected television platform partnership between the BBC, Channel 4, ITV Arqiva, BT, TalkTalk and others, which should see a large increase in data traffic across its network.

TalkTalk will be using the Velocix solution to deliver that YouView traffic, directly over IP networks to subscribers' set top boxes and PCs. Alcatel said that content may be downloaded directly into the Velocix infrastructure and then dynamically distributed across the TalkTalk network to end users. "By delivering the content from within its secure network, rather than from the public internet, TalkTalk is able to guarantee a better user experience to its end users, as well as significantly reducing its peering costs for internet connectivity."

"By enabling our network with Alcatel-Lucent Velocix infrastructure, we will be able to lead the market in digital delivery, further showcasing TalkTalk's leading innovation in the UK market," said Max Alexander, TV & Media Director of TalkTalk. "Alcatel-Lucent Velocix's experience of operating a global CDN, coupled with its market leadership and extensive experience in video delivery were major factors in our selection. We believe Alcatel-Lucent is best positioned to support us in the deployment and operation of our own CDN."

As with the BT dedicated network announced last month, this arguably raises issues over net neutrality, and that 'two-tiered' Internet which follows on from the introduction of 'managed services'.

One could argue that this is simply a bugbear of Internet rights activists, and ISPs delivering video, particularly in high quantity as will likely be the case with YouView, need to have some system in place to guarantee quality.

The problem is when both of the ISPs in question publically admit they wouldn't have a problem prioritising traffic for those willing to pay, and that two-tiered Internet exits the realms of speculation and enters likelihood.

This was from last month when, speaking at a Westminster eForum on net neutrality, senior executives from both BT and TalkTalk said they would be willing to prioritise selected services at the expense of others. Asked specifically if TalkTalk would provide more bandwidth to YouTube than the BBC's iPlayer if Google was prepared to pay, the company's Executive Director of Strategy and Regulation, Andrew Heaney, said it would be "perfectly normal business practice to discriminate between them".

And from BT's Director of Group Industry Policy, Simon Milner, "We absolutely could see a situation when content or app providers may want to pay BT for quality of service above best efforts."

U.S. Right's group Public Knowledge's warned a couple months ago that "if managed services are allowed to cannibalize the best efforts Internet, whatever protections are agreed to for the latter become, for all intents and purposes, meaningless". Something to bear in mind.

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Following in the steps of BT, two-tiered Internet comes a step closer


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