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Telefonica stamps open source intent on LatAm set top future

Telefonica has launched into a project to build its own open set top middleware, based on the Frog Source software from French pay TV player Wyplay – a venture which could spell bad news for vendors within the operator’s existing set top ecosystem.

Frog Source provides 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 and drive down costs, as long as they have their own software engineers to put the system together.

Source is just one quarter of the full Frog offering, contributing to removing the need for any design involvement from hardware manufacturers or chipset vendors. Frog is written for Linux which allows pay TV operators to develop a graphic UI in HTML5, create partnerships with third party software suppliers and build apps enabling interactivity on set top decoders and mobile devices.

It is used as the basis for TV services encompassing live broadcast TV, recording functionality, push VoD, and interactive applications.

It’s worth noting that many projects such as this barely make it off the ground, but the announcement represents Telefonica’s clear intent to switch to an open source architecture – so if this week’s ambitions don’t make it to deployment, then another likely will.

The Frog by Wyplay community initiative has signed up over 135 companies in the TV tech landscape, but interestingly, Telefonica’s long-term hardware partner Arris is not one of these – whereas set top suppliers that are on-board with the initiative include Humax and AirTies.

This is a massive deal for Wyplay. It has sealed a handful of deals with players in Latin America in the past, and Canal+ in its home French territory, but none on the scale of Telefonica – a project which could see set tops based on its middleware deployed into 8.4 million pay TV homes in Latin America and Spain.

Other wins for Wyplay include Belgacom, SFR and Vodafone. At Canal + Frog has been used to replace the Cisco middleware across its 6 million subscribers on both DVB-T and satellite boxes, so it has the pedigree to see this through.

This would certainly tie in nicely with Wyplay’s summer expansion when it established a new office in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Wyplay said this decision was based on a Frog Turnkey project signature in Brazil, which it promised to unveil by the end of the year, but is yet to make an appearance, which more than hints at the likelihood that the focus of the collaboration between Telefonica and Wyplay will kick off in Brazil.

On top of this, Telefonica recently announced that its on-demand OTT platform Movistar Play would be expanding to a host of new regions in Latin America. 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 in September in which it will supply set tops across Telefonica’s entire footprint – which presumably means some with this open source software on them.

The Proteus project comprises HD, UHD, DTH, cable and IPTV set tops, with an expected roll out some time in 2017. Arris’ VIP1113 set tops are already deployed in Spain, for delivering Telefonica’s next generation IPTV service to its 3.75 million Movistar pay TV customers – including HDTV, TV Everywhere, on-demand, and OTT services, but we assume this continues to be with existing middleware.

Telefonica’s set tops currently run middleware from the UK’s Oregan Networks, supplying a software stack that combines digital terrestrial and OTT video delivery capabilities for DVB-T in Spain, as well as ISDB-T in Argentina and Brazil. Telefonica’s foray into open source middleware means Oregan Networks is hanging on by a thread, but it is likely to be some time before the replacement is carried out.

Some of Telefonica’s set tops also run Smartware turnkey middleware from Dutch company TeleIdea.

In terms of security, question marks could be raised about how the Wyplay project can support Telefonica’s existing conditional access systems out of the box, from Nagra and NDS – but this is not an integration we can see Wyplay having any particular difficulty with, but it will take some time.

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.

Telefonica has around 3.75 million pay TV homes in Spain, and it has positioned its Movistar service to serve up multiscreen purely for OTT delivery not to the TV, for €7 a month. Whereas Telefonica’s Yomvi OTT service, which it inherited from its acquisition of Spain’s Canal+, is free for existing satellite TV subscribers, with various standalone price plans available.

Telefonica ended the third quarter of this year with 8,396,700 pay TV subscribers in total, across Spain, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela. This is a year-on-year growth of 3%, but a quarterly slip of 25,000 pay TV subs.

As well as making waves in Latin America, Wyplay got its first taste of Asia when it was selected by DishTV, one of India’s largest satellite operators, to provide its Frog turnkey middleware for DishTV’s set tops back in March this year. DishTV has 13.7 million DTH customers.

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