Thai telco goes 4K with Ateme, are financial woes behind it?

French encoding expert Ateme won a deployment at TOT (Telephone Organization of Thailand) while July 4 celebrations were underway in the US. A South East Asian telco deploying video technologies is a common trend, but the fact that TOT has gone for Ateme’s 4K UHD compression technologies shows just how advanced telcos in Asia have become in delivering video.

Several years ago the state-owned TOT was in poor financial straits, in the wake of various accusations of corruption, scandals and upheavals, but it plowed on and invested substantially in building out LTE-enabled base stations. Therefore, we can jump to the conclusion that the mobile-first video boom in South East Asia has helped TOT pick up the pieces and pay off some of its debt – so much so that now it has pulled out the funds to invest in 4K UHD content delivery.

Ateme says it was already handling TOT’s primary distribution, and it now claims the contract extension allows TOT to deliver 4K quality content at latency as low as 130ms.

There is no mobile-first OTT video service in TOT’s suite of services yet, but has offered an IPTV service since 2012, which it says is available on multiple devices including smartphones via its IP-based wireless broadband, as well as TV sets via its fixed lines. Following the deployment of Ateme’s technology, TOT will be launching nine 4K UHD contribution channels over IP.

Based on its fifth generation Stream compression engine, its Kyrion encoder has been developed for contribution over satellite and IP networks, with added value features such as ultra-fast-boot, ultra-low latency, and ABR output. It also offers a software-upgradeable HEVC encoding option to support UHD video streaming as well as legacy MPEG2 to H264 compressions.

TOT also hosts the MVNOs i-Kool 3G and Tron IEC3G on its network – but these only serve a tiny pool of the population and TOT’s 3G network is sparse and scarcely used. At the end of 2016, these three companies had a combined mobile market share of 0.18%, some 164,000 subscribers, according to data from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). So while it is reasonably sized in IPTV, it’s clearly not big in mobile.

It also offers the GSM mobile service ThaiMobile in partnership with CAT Telecom, as well as wireless broadband and fixed line telephony.

TOT chief engineer, Saroj Phitapong, said, “Ateme’s encoding technology was proven to be the best option available on the market. It gives us the ability to switch from a regular HD feed to a high quality 4K feed according to our needs by simply activating a license. Their unparalleled video quality at ultra-low latency, the ability to support HEVC via a simple software update and the reliability of their Kyrion line of products offers TOT flexibility and performance while improving operational orchestration, productivity and efficiency.”

Ateme sales manager for APAC region, Xiao Zhang, said, “By choosing our Kyrion pair, TOT acquires the best contribution solution that is fully upgradeable and future proof. The deployed system is able to embed new features on existing platforms which also increases the company’s return on investment.”