Telefónica kicks off Frog roll out – Will it make the hop to Europe?

A year on from securing a major contract at Telefónica, French TV vendor Wyplay can breathe a sigh of relief as its open source Frog middleware begins reaching into millions of Latin American homes as part of the Spanish giant’s new IPTV system, live this week. Telefónica has not made any mention of Wyplay playing a part in its European operations, but we are sure the rapidly growing platform will eventually win this more lucrative slice of the Telefónica business, to align with the expansion of its Movistar OTT service.

Of course, there were doubts that a project of this scale and complexity, combining multiple TV services and features, would ever see the light of day – and its success could influence other major pay TV players to take an open source route to market. This open source architecture, aggregating broadcast TV with recording functionality, multiscreen, push VoD, interactive applications and more, on something as simple as a basic zapper up to advanced multi-tuner gateways, is rewriting the set top environment as we know it. Middleware in Europe is currently handled by the UK’s Oregan Networks and some set tops also run Smartware turkey middleware from Dutch company TeleIdea, which have done a decent job, but cannot boast the same collaborative industry effort seen at Wyplay.

Wyplay’s success can be attributed to the 177 companies involved in the Frog by Wyplay developer community, adding 22 members in the past year. Telefónica’s long-term set top partner Arris is still a notable absentee, while hardware vendors including Technicolor, Humax, Huawei, Sagemcom, Samsung and Skyworth are on board Frog, which Wyplay claims is the world’s fastest growing TV ecosystem.

Similar open technology platforms including Android and Comcast’s RDK have also seen uptake as the preferred middleware platforms for pay TV systems, as operators realize that closed platforms do not deliver the cost-saving and innovation capabilities of community-driven projects.

December 2016 was when Telefónica launched into the ambitious project to build its own set top middleware, based on the Frog Source software. Frog Source works by providing the code which 200 set top software components are built on, and this effectively provides operators with a cheaper alternative to proprietary software, by allowing them to create their own products.

Frog can also encompass technologies such as compression, as observed through Wyplay’s partnership with V-Nova, as well as recommendation software and more. The open source code base means these features can be integrated in a more straightforward manner into an existing deployment as it requires no involvement from the chipset vendor or hardware manufacturer.

Frog is written in Linux which allows pay TV operators to develop graphical user interfaces in HTML5, form partnerships with third-party software suppliers and build apps enabling interactivity on set top decoders and mobile devices.

The operator’s expansion efforts in Latin America, as well as in Spain, will be spearheaded by Arris, which announced a five-year deal at IBC 2016 in which it will supply set tops across Telefónica’s entire footprint – which presumably means some with Wyplay’s open source software on them.

Questions were also raised about security within Telefónica’s Frog project, concerning how it can support Telefónica’s existing conditional access systems out of the box, from Nagra and NDS, which has clearly been achieved but took some time for developers to overcome.

What we do know about Wyplay’s security is that its subsidiary MathEmbedded has designed a connection to hardware hooks built into set top chips. Wyplay has also talked about plugging into a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) using a Secure Video Path, as well as working with forensic watermarking.

Even with its 8.4 million TV subscribers, of which 4.6 million reside in Latin America, Telefónica is not the Wyplay customer boasting the largest TV footprint, a crown held by DishTV in India which has some 13.7 million DTH customers and selected Frog middleware in March 2016. Deployment was scheduled for Q4 2016 but there has been no update, although it may have rolled it out quietly.

Wyplay CEO Jacques Bourgninaud said, “With a small team of highly productive engineers, an operator can deploy a solution in less than one year. This first successful Telefónica project deployment confirms our Frog Source strategy.”