IDATE’s latest report explores telecom carriers’ strategies with respect to Content delivery networks (CDN). It analyses the impact of telcos’ arrival into the CDN value chain, especially with respect to pure-player CDN companies and equipment suppliers.It concludes with an analysis of the market that telcos can expect to capture over the long term, especially in the realm of mobile solutions which today are few and far between.
Telco CDN: strategic business for telcos and two-sided market enabler
As internet traffic continues to grow, spurred in large part by video consumption, most incumbent carriers have become engaged in a strategy to deploy their own content delivery network (CDN), which is integrated into their access network. Telcos will use a fixed CDN for their internal purposes, to improve the quality of the content services they distribute. This allows them to earn revenue from users, notably on managed services like IPTV, to offload traffic and to reduce their network expenditures. As to mobile networks, we have not really seen any native mobile CDN solutions as yet, but rather fixed solutions adapted to mobile systems. We are nevertheless starting to see initiatives from mobile equipment suppliers such as Samsung and Ericsson, in partnership with Akamai.
Operators are using telco CDN as a way of shoring up their two-sided market strategies, by generating new revenue streams, notably from OTT vendors. In other words, operators are looking to to be both a both technical and economic solution to their development issues. But the way they are positioning their CDN is somewhat tentative, and they are struggling on the sales end of things when targeting media or internet companies, as both have a range of alternatives for distributing their video services, such as paid peering.
An increasingly complex CDN value chain
The direct competition that telco CDN are facing has more or less required them to embrace coopetition, and create partnerships with their rivals. Traditional CDN players developed their solutions to target telcos, offering CDN resale and managed CDN solutions as well as licensing schemes. Some operators, such as AT&T and Orange, stumbled when initially rolling out their own CDN, before turning to more long-established CDN players as partners, in particular via distribution deals.
So CDN market competition has heated up since telcos entered the fray, and become full-fledged links in the newly revamped CDN value chain. They are part of what is now a complex ecosystem where players often occupy dual positions:
• telcos are both rival and customer for long-established CDN players, in both the retail and wholesale markets;
• with respect to internet companies, telcos may be both their wholesale supplier and their retail market competitor;
• equipment manufacturers are also positioned in the value chain, targeting client telcos and competing with traditional CDN companies.
The CDN market is in the throes of a second wave of consolidation, which will result in an even more competitive environment as telcos acquire traditional CDN players, a case in point being Verizon’s recent takeover of EdgeCast.
Expected boost from mobile traffic and non-video services starting in 2016
Telco CDN accounted for a mere 0.7% of the global CDN market in 2013. But the long-term outlook is good, and they are forecast to grow by 90% annually over the next five years. 2016 is expected to be the year that operator CDN really take off, spurred by growing distribution on mobile networks and distribution of non-video content. By being indispensable players in the mobile ecosystem, telcos will be able use CDN to optimise traffic on cellular systems. The creation of CDN federations also opens up new opportunities for CDN market players to expand their footprint.
Tiana RAMAHANDRY, Consultant