Canal+ takes OTT baby steps with WiFi chipsets

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Canal+ is best known as a pay TV company owned by content powerhouse Vivendi, not an establishment renowned for its next-generation practices. Only now is the French pay TV operator embracing WiFi as central to the future of TV, deploying its first multi-room WiFi design, powered by chipsets from US WiFi technology specialist Quantenna.

By multi-room, it means connecting up to three G9 mini set tops to the main hybrid satellite OTT G9 set top, launched earlier this month, delivering video via in-home WiFi. This design receives HD and UHD video via satellite, then decodes and redistributes video streams between set tops via WiFi. Extra OTT functionalities, such as on-demand content, are pulled directly from an internet connection, which must be owned by one of the major French ISPs, not by Vivendi.

The recently launched G9 set top from Canal+ is integrating Quantenna’s QSR1000 based 802.11ac 4×4 product and the G9 mini uses Quantenna’s 2×2 dual-band 802.11ac/11n QSR2000 chipset. Quantenna says its chipsets maximize coverage in homes without compromising network performance and reliability, equipped with technologies such as MU-MIMO, digital transmit beamforming and embedded DSP (digital signal processor) engine – helping to accelerate hardware performance. No set top vendor is disclosed but we imagine it will be Technicolor.

Quantenna says its QSR2000 chipset is specially adapted for set tops and OTT devices, while its QSR1000 product is designed for access points (APs) and repeaters. Canal+’s G9 mini is therefore essentially acting as an access point, yet there is a key omission.

Mesh is not part of the Canal+ deployment, so this may be a case of testing the waters for uptake of such a multi-room system by subscribers, before taking the next leap to a mesh architecture using multi-APs.

Of course, Canal+ is not an ISP so investing heavily in WiFi technologies is not an immediate concern. Introducing compatibility between its new line of set tops with third-party repeaters or ex-tenders to appeal to larger homes, on the other hand, may be food for thought.

Canal+ will certainly be hopeful of a revival, having lost over 400,000 subscribers in its last results filing in May 2017, including its CanalSat brand which has since been retired. Making its debut in multi-room WiFi will inject temporary life into its pay TV business, but a miraculous turnaround of this scale will not simply be achieved with a new hardware roll out.

Canal+ must use its content clout to transform the SVoD service CanalPlay into a national success and center its video operations around this, to offset satellite losses.

Most recent CanalPlay figures are from September 2016 showing 614,000 subscribers to the €9.99 a month Netflix rival, a 91,000 loss over six months at the time. However, last summer, Ilaid’s Free began promoting the service to its 5 million customers and took up a 20% ownership of CanalPlay.

Philippe Rivas, CTO Distribution at Canal+, said, “WiFi has be-come the primary medium to deliver high quality video services to multiple devices simultaneously throughout the home. Having a reliable, high capacity WiFi network is crucial for customers. Quantenna’s superior WiFi solution with advanced Quality of Ser-vice for video applications helps us enable high quality video services with unparalleled customer satisfaction.”

 

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Caroline has been analyzing and reporting in the hi-tech industries since 1986 and has a huge wealth of experience of technology trends and how they impact on business models. She started her career as a journalist, specializing in enterprise and carrier networks and in silicon technologies. She spent much of her journalistic career at VNU Business Publishing, then Europe’s largest producer of technology publications and information services . She was publishing director for the launch of VNU’s pan-European online content services, and then European editorial director. She then made the move from publishing into technology market analysis and consulting, and in 2002 co-founded Rethink Technology Research with Peter White. Rethink specializes in trends and business models for wireless, converged and quad play operators round the world and the technologies that support them. Caroline’s role is to head up the wireless side of the business, leading the creation of research, newsletters and consulting services focused on mobile platforms and operator models. In this role, she has become a highly recognized authority on 4G systems such as LTE and WiMAX, and a prolific speaker at industry events. Consulting and research clients come from major mobile operators, the wireless supply chain and financial institutions.

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