Multicasting makes it easier to stream pay TV online, but the National Broadband Network plans to open up multicasting to other businesses. What could you do with it?
Multicasting makes it easier for online pay TV providers such as Fetch TV to deliver video to lots of customers at the same time. While traditional unicasting sends a separate video stream to every viewer, multicasting on the NBN basically caches the video at 121 Points of Interconnect around the country. This lets thousands of viewers tap into the one video stream, taking a significant load off the provider and the network. Multicasting can also supply dedicated bandwidth to the video stream, to ensure it's not interrupted by your other internet traffic.
The introduction of network-wide multicasting is one of the significant benefits of the NBN, as the likes of Telstra and Optus refused to enable it on their ADSL equipment. Only a handful of progressive ISPs such as Internode and iiNet offered it via ADSL. Thankfully all premises connected to the NBN fibre should be able to take advantage of multicasting, regardless of their ISP.
Multicasting is handy for those who distribute movies and those who love watching them, but the technology has the potential to do much more. Over time the NBN will open up its multicast feature for use beyond IPTV. Multicasting can improve efficiency for any business looking to distribute the same data to many end-users.
Initially multicasting will remain in the realm of the big players, particularly as there is a high price for connecting to the multicast service along with a per-customer fee. But NBN Co has already improved these fees and the structure could change further as new multicasting services are supported.
If your business is looking to diversify and become a service provider rather than a box shifter, the NBN's multicast features could open up new markets and make widespread content distribution more practical and affordable.
Delivering digital advertising directly to electronic billboards and Point of Sale displays across the country is one possible use for multicasting. Delivering video training materials is another.
Managed Service Providers might see benefits from multicasting when delivering software and firmware updates to remote devices such as set-top boxes, smart meters and internet-enabled appliances.
For now it's about TV, but with time multicasting could offer new opportunities to other Australian businesses.