Home >> March 2008 Edition >> Executive Spotlight On... David Richardson
Executive Spotlight On... David Richardson
Vice President Corporate, and Business Development, UDcast

In his executive role at UDcast, David Richardson contributes to the development of new products, market channels, and alliances, in the rapidly developing fields of Mobile TV and WiMAX. Richardson has more than 20 years of broadcasting and media industry experience. He was previously the Director of Business Development at NDS in North America. There, he co-invented NDS’s DVR technology—XTV, now the most widely deployed DVR solution in the world. For this contribution, Cable & Satellite Europe recognized him in 2005 as one of the leaders in European broadband and pay TV broadcasting.

Most recently, Richardson served as the NDS liaison for News Corp., its corporate parent, as well as with the U.S. entertainment industry. Richardson has also participated in the development of satellite data broadcasting technologies, IP multicast and interactive applications, including new forms of advertising and electronic program guides. During his time with NDS, Richardson contributed a number of granted- and filed-patents. Prior to that, Richardson founded and managed his own company specializing in pre-press systems integration and content workflow.

He has an academic background in economics, history and law. He entered the fields of telecommunications and systems via the Israeli Air Force, where he was trained in communications and security. Richardson gained his media experience in the newspaper industry as a reporter, editor, publisher, and systems developer before entering the digital television technology sector.

We had the opportunity to discuss with Mr. Richardson the Enterprise Network environment and how such meets the changing needs of today’s users. In the conversation, we were able to explore how satellite-based solutions are meeting the needs of the Enterprise private networks, what they bring to their operations as well as address WiMAX TV and hybrid systems.

The satellite market has evolved rapidly over the last five years, becoming more central to the deployment of Mobile TV. David, what role does UDcast play in this broadcasting ecosystem?

UDcast has its roots in satellite and today we are a software company providing IP broadcast solutions for the delivery of content to a broad range of devices over existing and emerging wireless networks worldwide. Satellite networking is a notoriously difficult environment and UDcast has years of accumulated expertise that it has successfully applied to solve the problems of the mobile TV market. Satellite distribution remains a most cost-effective way of moving content and distributing it over a mobile TV network, but poses challenges regarding the insertion of local content and advertising. UDcast was the first to develop a solution to this problem as well.

Are satellite technologies applicable in other areas?

Satellite represents operations in extreme conditions for Internet access. As UDcast was built on applying satellite technology to deliver broadband IP with security and speed, we have the experience and technology innovation to apply it to other networks. Our UDgateway and the newly launched WANxpress products are all-in-one appliances applicable in both the terrestrial and WiMAX environments. For example, the company has developed WANxpress compression technology that can be applied in all IP environments. Ipanema, a provider of terrestrial optimization solutions, has adopted this solution. WanXpress can accelerate date exchange by as much as 20 times and can also enable bandwidth savings of 75 percent, on average.

What, exactly, is WiMAX TV and what role will Satellite play in the evolution of WiMAX TV?

WiMAX TV is a solution enabling reception of live video content over standard WiMAX networks. It offers great quality of image for end users, while preserving network capacity at the same time.

There are more than 200 WiMAX networks deploying around the world as of this discussion. This represents large numbers of content feeds and base station use.

Live television will be one of the important value added application for WiMAX, and satellite distribution will enable efficient delivery of the content to the transmitter sites.

What do you see as the main applications for TV over WiMAX in the short term? Will it be in trials, deployments in areas where other options aren’t available, or perhaps backhauling DSL-based IPTV services, or even in-car TV?

It is difficult to predict where the initial take-up of WiMAX TV will be, but we can see applicability in the fixed, nomadic, and mobile environments. In developing markets, WiMAX is providing wireless broadband access and WiMAX TV becomes an attractive add-on. On university and other campuses, WiMAX will displace Wi-Fi on laptops and TV seems an obvious option. WiMAX, with its bandwidth and two-way capacity, is a good candidate for many mobile networks, as well.

WiMAX is emerging as one of the most promising wireless networking technologies, designed to meet the demand of mobile broadband IP. However, it is important to remember that broadcast-quality video is a bandwidth hog. Each new customer requires more bandwidth; connectivity sessions grow longer and applications such as video require ever more capacity. Serving thousands of such individual “unicast” streams becomes prohibitively expensive. Broadcast is the only proven way to deliver content inexpensively to large numbers of viewers. The viewing times tend to cluster together, depending upon the popularity of the content being broadcast. And this viewing tendency occurs whether at home, or on the go. One way to take full advantage of WiMAX capacity is to implement a hybrid broadcast/multicast/unicast infrastructure.

When looking at the future for satellite and mobile TV, how do you see DVB-SH progressing?

The DVB-SH standard (Digital Video Broadcasting – Satellite services to Handhelds) is an evolution of the DVB-H standard. The technology offers three key benefits:
  • A much greater choice in terms of spectrum (up to 3GHz)
  • Better spectrum efficiency, directly translating into significant cost savings
  • And possible hybrid satellite/terrestrial operation, to extend mobile broadcast reach all across a territory
In Europe, DVB-SH will use the S-band frequency at 2.2 GHz, available across many European countries Europe’s first S-band satellite, owned by a Eutelsat and SES Astra joint venture company, will be launched in the first quarter of 2009. The S-band allows the use of the DVB-SH standard and is adjacent to the UMTS band, thus allowing reuse of existing cellular sites, towers and antennas. In the US, the first DVB-SH operation will also be based on a hybrid system at 2.2 GHz with an S-band satellite to be launched by ICO Global Communications in March 2008.

When are we going to see large-scale hybrid WiMAX / mobile broadcast deployments and where?

ICO and Clearewire initiated the first trial of a hybrid system in 2007. They wanted to validate the possibility of using satellite for broadcast TV services and WiMAX for interactivity. This model has a good chance to become popular on a global scale, as DVB-H and DVB-SH service are now being deployed (there are already eight commercial networks today, and we are expecting more than 20 by end of 2008).

Looking at the enterprise, how strong is the demand for private network and VPN (Virtual Private Network) over satellite solutions today? Do you see this demand growing over time?

There is a growing demand for VPN for enterprises over satellite networks. This is mainly due to:
  • An increasing demand for VSAT connections for branch offices of enterprises. This segment is growing at 10% per year, and in some regions such as APAC it is growing more than 30%.
  • Awareness of the need for VPN accelerated solutions is also growing. In the beginning the method for accessing internet from remote areas was the slow dial-up service, then the VSAT solution started to be popular (and cheaper)
  • Knowledge in companies about the intrinsic problems of such networks and of the solutions available such as UDcast’s UDgateway and WANxpress technology)
Security issues are key not only for big enterprises but also for SOHO. The increased sophistication of small companies shows their increase interest in VPN solutions over satellite networks.

Companies are used to using VPN solutions for connecting all of their remote sites, both over terrestrial networks and satellite networks. The main issue is that there are still many enterprises not aware of the low performance of VPN solutions over satellite networks, which can decrease performance as much as 80 percent. They use the same terrestrial networks equipments without coordination with the SSP (Satellite Service Provider), When they complain about the slowness of the satellite connected network, the SSP is unable to immediately help them as they are not aware of the VPN added by the end customer.

That’s why satellite-aware VPN solutions are needed, in order to accelerate the applications before the encryption. The first appliance from UDcast to secure and accelerate satellite-connected networks is called UDgateway and 75 percent of UDcast’s customers have invested in this product, mostly due to its VPN capabilities. This continues to be a major part of the new generation of our appliances: WANxpress, that further accelerates date exchanges through an advanced, storage-based, compression algorithm.

Satellite solution providers have a chance to increase their penetration of the private network market simply by responding to the growing demands of customers and providing new satellite-enabled services to the market. But what are the best services for satellite providers to focus on?

There are several benefits of the satellite networks, which SSPs need to boost to increase their penetration. The installation time of a satellite private network is less than one week and is even possible to complete in one day for those urgent to critical installations. The availability time could reach 99.85 percent, much higher than a DSL or cable line.

On the other hand, intrinsic problems endemic to satellites brings new issues requiring solutions:
  • Price of satellite bandwidth: the transponder price is still expensive, making satellite internet access more expensive than terrestrial access
  • Slowness of enterprise applications: applications were not designed to be used over networks with long delay making some applications as SAP, Citrix, CIFS unable to work over satellite networks.
  • Security: in a satellite network there are usually two different parts, the satellite to get connected to the SSP hub and the terrestrial to get to the internet or intranet. When branch offices need to get connected to the company’s intranet over satellite, a VPN solution is mandatory for matching the level of security of the enterprise.
These listed issues can be addressed by the UDgateway, which provides standard IPsec tunnels end-to-end from the remote branch offices to the headquarters of the company. In addition, payload compression and techniques of ACK suppression save bandwidth (= money) to end customers, or make bandwidth available for new applications. To address specific applications of enterprises, there are specific optimization techniques for applications as HTTP and CIFS, or the applications can benefits of QoS, compression, and TCP acceleration to get accelerated.

David, from a cost standpoint, what is the target satellite companies must meet in order to obtain a share of this market?

It is not a question of money. For offices located in areas where only dial-up connections are available, satellite solutions are the only choice for gaining broadband access. For other kinds of companies looking for a reliable back up solution for their terrestrial access, satellite would be also the right choice.

However, there are other, more price sensitive segments which would be willing to move into a satellite broadband solution if the price for such access becomes morein line with DSL or cable (i.e. Wildblue, with whom UDcast is working closely to deliver enterprise-grade satellite IP access). For including the VPN solution, the payback time is less than one year for UDcast’s solutions. How is such possible? The acceleration increases the productivity of end users, the bandwidth savings allows the company to pay less for a better performance, and the security avoids potential threads that can cost very expensive.

What security concerns are present, and how do you address them?

The main concern many enterprises have about security on satellite networks is their internal lack of control of the security equipment. Some hub manufacturers have a solution for encryption in place from the remote modem to the hub. From the hub to the headquarters or data centre of the company, there could be a leased line, an internet connection or a VPN, normally provided by a different actor than the SSP. From the company’s point of view, there is security—but who controls the security? Does the SSP assure that the proprietary solution of the hub is secure enough? Does the SSP assure that the connection from the hub to the headquarters is secure enough?

That’s why many companies chose to have a dedicated solution from each of their satellite-connected branch offices to their headquarters/data centre. They can choose a solution that’s based in standards (IPsec), they can control both ends, and they don’t care about any modifications in the network topology of their providers (SSP + ISP). If this VPN standard solution also accelerates and enables applications over the satellite network, they will be closer to the desired LAN-like performance. That’s the objective of UDgateway and WANxpress technology, and the wish of many companies that haven’t yet found a solution for their remote branch offices.

Not only is the link connection a concern for IT in enterprises, as there’s also the security of remote networks which is equally important. Sometimes the remote branch offices are small and there is no IT person available on site to put in place right security tools. The UDgateway includes, in the same box, firewall and antivirus applications ensuring protection of the remote network against external threats..

What about overall performance and any performance enhancement you offer?

Every single network is different— applications and the types of files transferred are different—on the average, UDcast’s UDgateway can accelerate in the range of 2x to 7x and save bandwidth as much as 90 percent for some data types. These rates include the overhead of the VPN tunnel. The latest WANxpress technology enables acceleration by up to 20 times.

To get this performance, different techniques are applied:
  • TCP acceleration: it helps to accelerate all applications running over TCP protocol. When bandwidth is available, TCP acceleration helps to fill the bandwidth available (ramp-up, congestion avoidance), thus getting the data faster. When the bandwidth available is small, ACK suppression can still help to use less bandwidth, thus getting the data faster.
  • Compression: in order to save bandwidth an on-the-fly compression algorithm is applied to the payload of IP packets. The WANxpress compression goes even further thanks to a cutting-edge storage based compression algorithm.. The algorithm compares all new data with what has been previously exchanged through the network.
  • Application acceleration: as TCP acceleration is not enough for some applications, which are limited by the application layer, http pre-fetch and caching are available in the UDgateway, CIFS acceleration allows performance up to 4 times faster and SMTP relay allows the immediate delivery of emails to the UDgateway to be sent afterwards in a low priority bases.
  • QoS: 4 different queues can help customers to prioritize traffic depending on their needs. On top of that, traffic shaping is available for reserving bandwidth for the most important hosts, remotes or applications.
What roles will Satellite and WiMAX play in the market of the future?

The latest wave of convergence pulls together the three, so far distinctive, technology and business areas—IP, Broadcast, and Wireless communication—into a single ecosystem. While the Internet Protocol has established itself as the near universal method of digital, broadcasting remains the only way to guarantee the cost-effective and predictable delivery of high-quality entertainment and information to large audiences. Wireless access too has become an expectation forcing all in the value chain to develop and deploy technologies and solutions, which enable access to content anywhere and at any time.

Looking at how the innovative satellite technologies enable inexpensive Internet access (e.g. WildBlue in U.S.), or immediate mobile TV coverage (announced DVB-SH deployments), and taking into account hundreds of wireless broadband networks being build around the world today, there is no doubt both the satellite communication with its economy of scale, and WiMAX with its flexibility, are placed directly at the heart of the transforming digital industry.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, David. There certainly is a great deal to learn and understand regarding convergence and you’ve definitely helped us in this regard.