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Internet speed is a limited resource, yet consumer demand for bandwidth shows no signs of slowing.
Content streaming continues its explosion in popularity and according to one survey, 75% of hotel guests now wish to access Netflix when travelling.
Sufficient bandwidth is therefore necessary to serve the content users desire. To do this effectively, a network needs to manage its bandwidth distribution.
We look at the ways bandwidth can best be distributed around such facilities as hotels, care homes or schools, ensuring end users are satisfied and resources are used in the most efficient and effective way possible.
In general terms, bandwidth management is the manual or automatic process by which the available bandwidth (and thus the connection speed to the internet) is distributed amongst devices connected to a given network.
To any establishment, internet speed is always limited. Whether it’s the fastest fibre to an inner-city hotel, or shaky ADSL to a woodland campsite, there’s always a finite capacity.
That capacity has to be shared, with anybody connected to the network who needs it at any time.
But, especially in scenarios where the internet connection is slower, a few users can quickly consume all the bandwidth available.
This will result in a poor customer experience for those who don’t receive their fair share of the connection.
So, to ensure an optimal experience for all users, a form of bandwidth management is necessary.
Bandwidth can be managed using one of two methods: the dynamic or the static/classic approach.
Static bandwidth management is a limiting approach. A bandwidth limit is set for each endpoint or group of endpoints.
Dynamic bandwidth management is an automatic allocation approach. Bandwidth is allocated dynamically to each endpoint, depending upon usage requirements at any given moment. By guaranteeing a minimum bandwidth across the network, it also ensures no single endpoint can take up all the capacity.
Here’s an overview comparing the different approaches:
TRIAX Ethernet over Coax (EoC) creates an enterprise-grade gigaspeed IP network over the existing coax cables in a building or group of buildings. By re-using TV cables already in place, installation costs are significantly reduced, and it’s good for the planet too.
For ultimate flexibility, TRIAX EoC offers both Dynamic and Static/Classic methods of bandwidth management.
This gives an administrator complete control – the dynamic method to automatically make the best use of the available bandwidth, or the static/classic approach, which is useful in especially hospitality situations where up-selling is important.
Read on for some scenarios where Dynamic Bandwidth Management is an advantageous approach.
At a classic conference hotel the demand for internet connection comes from different areas of the hotel, all depending on the time of day. During the evenings the main demand for a good and fast internet connection will be in the individual hotel rooms where guests are watching IPTV, streaming movies, working on e-mails and so on. During the day, it will most likely be in the conference area where people are gathered.
If your bandwidth management is a classic limitation approach, you will have a lot of unused and unavailable capacity allocated to the endpoints in the hotel rooms in a situation where there is high demand in the conference area. With the Dynamic Bandwidth Management of the EoC system, the capacity not used in the rooms is made available in the conference area giving the guests a much better internet experience. And of course vice-versa during the evenings.
School / university
A similar situation could be described at a school or a university. There the major demand for throughput will be in the classrooms or lecture halls during lectures and in the common areas during intervals and lunch. In this situation EoC DBM will also ensure the bandwidth is dynamically allocated to the areas of most need without compromising the minimum availability at other endpoints.
Difference in hotel guest profiles
At a hotel you will quite often have a variety of guest profiles. Some are more digital than others. With the TRIAX EoC DBM you don’t have to limit the guests who have a high demand for throughput, because you limit all your endpoints to the same capacity. With EoC you ensure that every endpoint has equal capacity, but any capacity not used at one endpoint can be dynamically distributed to others and hence improve their user experience.
 Hospitality Wi-Fi Survey of Guests & Hoteliers, Hotel Internet Services, 2019
by Knud Madsen
An unreliable internet connection can sometimes be an unfortunate fact of life.
But when a poor connection starts to affect services like video calling or telephony, it’s more than just an annoyance.
It’s a hindrance to performing activity crucial to smooth business operations, like remote working or keeping in touch with friends and family.
And if you’re managing a network, or offering internet access as a service, it’s vital to ensure end-user experience is top-notch.
One means of achieving this is through Quality of Service (QoS).
In a city during rush hour, some traffic is usually prioritised over others.
As in the real world, where traffic lanes can be reserved for buses, emergency vehicles or VIPs, so too can network components such as switches and routers prioritise data traffic.
This standard of prioritisation is known as Quality of Service (QoS).
Data packets are identified and prioritised by their Differentiated Services Code Point (DSCP) classification.
Online activities that are more dependent on a good, stable internet connection and high throughput identify themselves with a DSCP classification in order to ensure an optimal user experience.
Services such as Voice over IP (VoIP) are amongst the highest priority, as telephony data needs to be transmitted in real-time with no delays.
Other real-time services, such as video conferencing or multimedia streaming, are also DSCP classified and can be prioritised accordingly.
QoS handles such prioritisation either automatically, or manually by a network administrator according to the needs of the organisation.
Implementing QoS ensures the best possible experience for end users. This results in fewer user complaints, and an efficient operation of business-critical services.
QoS is particularly useful in locations where bandwidth is limited or situations where the network load is high, since it aids in avoiding or managing congestion on the network.
By making the most efficient use of available bandwidth, QoS guarantees prioritised services the best available connection around the network and out to the internet.
Everyday tasks such as web browsing or file downloads are in turn maintained at ‘best-effort’ – that is, with no prioritisation.
Some examples of services covered by QoS are as follows:
VoIP – usually critical to a business; the slightest fluctuations in service can affect call quality.
Packet loss and latency need to be at an absolute minimum.
Conferencing – more than ever in 2020, services like Microsoft Teams or Zoom need to run with high stability and low latency.
Streaming and/or gaming – especially in hospitality situations where guests expect home-from-home internet and experience is all-important, streaming or gaming can also be prioritised.
It is nevertheless less sensitive to packet loss and higher latency, so has a lower priority DSCP classification.
Web browsing, file transfer, email etc. – as everyday online tasks are not reliant on a real-time stream of information, the effects of network congestion are not so critical.
Some services mark data packets with DSCP Class 0 (no priority); unmarked packets are handled at the same lowest priority.
All the values of gigabit IP networking, none of the costs of new cables: TRIAX Ethernet over Coax (EoC) is an enterprise-grade 1Gbps IP network over your existing coax cable infrastructure. By re-using TV cables already in place, installation costs are significantly reduced, and it’s good for the planet too.
Adding to a host of professional networking features, EoC Software 2.6.1.r145 introduces QoS traffic priority based on DSCP for all EoC devices.
By default, the EoC Controller automatically maps standard DSCP classifications to a priority queue of 4 levels.
QoS is one of many compelling professional networking features of TRIAX EoC.
To find out more about TRIAX EoC and how it ensures the best possible experience for end users, visit our online pages or contact your local TRIAX office.
In all areas of life, at all levels of society, we are becoming accustomed to adapting to unexpected situations, to reassessing our future plans and current ways of working. In the year everything turned on its head, we take a look at headends.
We investigate changing demands and trends in TV distribution, and how they may all give cause to reflect on existing headend technologies and setups.
On 14 July, the Directors of ARD made a significant decision. The switch-off of their SD satellite channels, planned for early 2021, was postponed indefinitely. The reasoning was clear: that there are still significant numbers of the German population – 6 million households at the last count – who do not have HD-capable televisions or receivers.
While in previous switchovers large public information campaigns urge those affected to invest in new equipment, this was not deemed an appropriate message during the corona pandemic. In addition to economic uncertainty, TV itself is being turned to more and more for both entertainment and reliable information, so people could not be cut off from this vital source.
We have seen generational changes to society in just a few short months, but the postponement of the SD switch-off and a rediscovery by younger people of traditional broadcast TV nevertheless indicates that such societal shifts aren’t always taking place moving forward: that it is just as valid to embrace the status quo as it is new technologies.
Despite the pace of change, one must never assume that all are being brought along with it. Although the first analogue switch-off in Europe took place in Berlin in 2003, it was only by 2019 that Die Medienanstalten could finally declare that “analogue TV coverage is now part of the history of television transmission in Germany.” Meanwhile, the number of ‘cord cutters’ (those whose sole source of television content is the internet) is increasing, but numbers are still modest at just 650,000 households.
Pay TV is increasing exponentially in Germany. The prevalence of one form of Pay TV, OTT, is also increasing, but it is not perhaps as dominant in Europe as expected: with only 1 million OTT-only households across Europe, it is still mainly complementary to existing TV distribution methods.  It is still affected by bandwidth availability, though 87.9% of German households now have access to 30 Mbps or more and the federal government has planned the ‘gigabit society’ by 2025.
So, how does this all affect decision-making when considering the next headend purchase or upgrade? To be fully prepared, one must prepare for the future, but also take into account the present and even the past.
Depending on your market, first to consider is form factor. Micro headends for the smallest installations or specific use cases, compact headends for 19” cabinet compatibility and a fixed in/out specification, modular headends for more flexibility in choosing specific input and output modules, and then the professional headends used by operators. These days, cloud-based super headends based are also a possibility, depending on bandwidth availability.
For this feature we will limit ourselves to considering headends at the local level – the installations made every day in hotels, apartment blocks, clinics and so on.
In equipping our headend we need to consider:
As an example, in the hospitality sector, if a client only wishes to distribute standard FTA services around their premises, a micro or compact headend would be suitable, and it is here most cost savings are made. But, if they wanted to enrich their entertainment offering with programmes from other territories, or to adapt their programme list according to different types of guest, scalability suddenly becomes very important.
Scalability provides the opportunity to expand and adapt the system, and through modularity, systems can upgrade to the newest technology if required without changing the fundamental system. Updates are also invisible to the end user.
Modular headends, then, offer the most flexibility and should usually come with hot-swappable in- and output modules. The life of an installer is made easier and more cost-effective when service cases can be resolved by simply swapping out a defective module. Life for the solution owner is also easier when PID management ensures no TV reprogramming – so there’s no need for a technician to traipse round every hotel room for a day retuning TVs.
With modular headends you can expand and adapt the system by combining multiple input and output modules. But not only can you scale modules up or down, it is also possible to scale headend units up or down to create a multi-headend installation. With 24 RF channels per headend, you can combine up to 3 headends for up to 72 channels – that’s roughly 280 HD or 570 SD programmes, enough for even the most discerning international guest.
A further advantage is scalability of service and support. Remote access features of modular headends tend to be highly advanced, and convenient. You can take control of all your installations from your office – even more useful nowadays when access to client premises may be limited.
With modular headends you also have unlimited possibilities to multiplex services for each output modulation. This means that regardless of the input, you can configure the necessary output modules to support a broad mix of TVs of all ages, or different devices such as mobile phones or tablets.
The IP Pool
With such hardware flexibility, it’s sensible to look for flexibility in the software and modulation options, too. Some headends offer ‘IP Pool’ technology, which is a particularly effective method of managing TV programmes. From any input, transport streams are processed and collected in the same ‘pool’. The TV programmes can then be distributed via one or more output modules, for example as QAM or IPTV and managed in a TV channel list using the LCN function (Logical Channel Number). This TV channel list can also be managed and changed remotely if necessary.
You could also include a PAL module for older equipment – so in a scenario like a care home with many older analogue TVs, you can transcode any HD input into analogue PAL channels, preferably with a solution that will transcode the AC3 audio stream to a standard PAL output too.
Combined headend and Ethernet over Coax installation
Having prepared a headend that caters for current and legacy modules, there is still the question of how best to accommodate OTT into the mix. Sufficient bandwidth will have to be available to all users in all buildings. If fibre rollout does continue as planned, FTTB or FTTC installations will require buildings to have the internal infrastructure to make the faster connection speeds available to the end user.
This is not always easy when the building is older and has no CAT cables. Fortunately, it is now possible to run gigabit networks over the coax cables which are installed in most buildings. Keeping the existing cables is a compelling argument for most proprietors, since any installation of new cables would result in significant disruption and the inconvenience of applying for new fire safety approvals.
This is known as ‘ethernet over coax’ and of the different technologies in use today, solutions built on G.hn are advantageous in that gigabit throughput is available both up- and downstream, and bandwidth per end point is managed dynamically – making the system smart enough to provide the best OTT service to each user from the available connection speed.
Both headends and ethernet over coax solutions can peacefully coexist in the same environment.
We have seen that there are many factors one must take into account when making headend purchasing or upgrading decisions. Yet what has always been the case, and what has been brought into sharp focus this year, is that while we have to prepare for change just over the horizon, we must also be mindful of people, technologies or infrastructures that do not always follow this pace of change.
Just as we are having to adapt to new situations more in our everyday lives, so too is finding the right headend configuration for now and the future important. To avoid regularly having to make costly hardware upgrades, having an appropriately configured headend as a workhorse in your TV installations is essential: keeping it ready for the future, whilst handling the signals of the past & present.
 SES S.A., Astra TV-Monitor 2019, https://de.astra.ses/sites/default/files/2020-04/ASTRA_TV%20Monitor_2019_1.pdf
 Wood, David: History of the DVB Project. 2013, p.5, https://dvb.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/History-of-the-DVB-Project.pdf
 Digitisation 2019: Video, published by die medienanstalten – ALM GbR, p.20
 Ibid. p.24
 Digitisation 2019: Video, published by die medienanstalten – ALM GbR, p. 49
 European Commission, Broadband Coverage in Europe 2018, p.97 https://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=62760 https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/study-broadband-coverage-europe-2018
by Dietmar Rauch