BT 'developing content delivery network'

Tuesday, December 8 2009, 11:44 GMT

By Andrew Laughlin,

BT Wholesale is reportedly developing a new content delivery network which could improve the quality of online video usage and also ease the burden on ISPs.

Titled Content Connect, the project is being led by BT Wholesale in collaboration with BT Retail and two other ISPs, along with broadcasters Channel 4, Five and the BBC, according to The Guardian.

The project's aim is to ease the traffic burden of online video usage by hosting popular content on an ISP's local network for controlled downloading. By doing so, the scheme would negate the heavy load of multiple streams on popular services such as iPlayer, 4oD and YouTube to ease the traffic costs for ISPs.

Several thousand UK broadband users are currently trialling the service, ahead of a full commercial launch potentially in spring 2010. BT is also understood to be in talks with Google to make its video content available on the project.

The increasing use of the internet for rich media and online video delivery is causing significant problems for ISPs. In June, the BBC accused BT of throttling the amount of bandwidth available on its lowest service tier for streaming video services on iPlayer at peak times.

In response, a BT spokesman said that the telecoms giant "can't give these companies a free ride anymore". The problem is further complicated because ISPs currently don't receive any money from content owners for the increased traffic on their networks.

Instead, the BBC and other media providers use content delivery networks (CDNs), such as Akamai and Limelight, to distribute their material. However, CDNs do not place the content on local ISP networks, which means that the traffic still exerts a heavy load on the wider network.

BT Wholesale therefore wants to cut out the CDNs as middle men and instead deal directly with content providers. The Content Connect project would involve ISPs hosting videos on their local networks and providing an assured quality of service, even at peak times.

Sian Baldwin, BT Wholesale director of broadband and content services, warned that ISPs will soon become reluctant to spend money improving their networks if major traffic users give them nothing in return.

"It's really difficult to predict what will happen," she said. "You cannot say all of the ISPs will get into a stand-off in which they threaten to cut off the traffic of YouTube or Apple but by my predictions there is a situation where they might have to."

In August, the BBC's Richard Halton said that digital TV boxes compatible with the Canvas IPTV project could include local storage to reduce the amount of bandwidth needed to deliver popular programmes on-demand.