Five-step action plan to make ‘Operation Upcycle’ a reality

Amino CEO Donald McGarva talks through a no-nonsense approach to maximizing legacy investment

The successful launch of ‘Operation Upcycle’ seems to have pay-TV operators everywhere talking to us about just how to implement this approach. I’ve found myself responding to a constant stream of questions on this. In this blog, I look at what five key steps clients can take to successfully ‘upcycle’ legacy STBs through a software-based transformation solution.

Today’s pay TV subscribers are increasingly demanding the most advanced and intuitive services and expect best-in-class user experience (UX). This trend is having a profound effect on pay-TV operators across the value chain.

Consumers increasingly expect anytime, anywhere over-the-top (OTT) viewing within a modern user experience (UX), including advanced search capabilities and access to the latest apps. Yet meeting this demand requires operators to overcome a variety of hurdles – the biggest being investment in legacy hardware that is unable to support many of these new requirements.

The cost and complexity of upgrading customer premise equipment to match the next generation of set-top-boxes (STBs) is daunting to many operators, but the risk of not doing so is churn, failure to attract new subscribers and shrinking revenues.

Charting a course of action

Operators need to carefully review what options are open to them and how best to maximize their current and future investment in platforms and customer premise equipment (CPE). Amino has established a proven approach that operators can employ, evaluating the best possible method and at what cost, using five critical steps to ensure successful and cost-effective transition:

1) Build a clear set of requirements – An operator needs to define the key requirements that its services need to be able to deploy for its current and future market evolution. This can be as broad as saying that it needs to be able to offer HD, cloud DVR, on-demand and integration with Netflix. This “wish list” allows the operator to benchmark how much of its STB estate can be upgraded with a software-based transformation solution.

2) Review your choices – Look in detail at the cost and operational differences between two traditional options, ‘Lift and Replace’ and ‘Cap and Grow’, and a new route forward: ‘Upcycling’. This new option – which, in the case of STBs, can be implemented via Amino’s ENABLE solution – involves software and virtualization to allow legacy CPE to be remotely upgraded to deliver cutting edge features.

3) Detailed analysis – Assess current platform architecture, CPE, desired requirement outcomes and available investment. Determine which generations of STB can be upgraded to meet the service requirement benchmarks. Amino has tools for doing this assessment. In very broad terms, any STB that is capable of offering HD video will generally have enough processing power and internal memory to support Amino’s ENABLE software elements and supporting cloud-based services. Create a detailed overview of which STBs can be ‘upcycled’, along with timescales and software licensing costs that include the software stack needed to deliver target features such as voice search, cloud DVR and OTT on-demand services. Compare against the cost and complexity of a traditional physical upgrade, taking into account the advantages of self-install and rapid roll-out.

4) Proof of concept – With all the facts, options and costs in place an operator is in a strong position to select an option. If ‘upcycling’ is deemed to be the most efficient solution, a small proof of concept could be developed to help create a unified service offering and common UX. This proof of concept will test the upgrade process and ensure compatibility with the underlying STB hardware. In certain cases, Amino will build custom drivers or software extensions for chipsets or devices that may have non-certified elements.

5) Consider deployment options – Once a route forward is chosen, there are many choices still to be made: timeframes, branding and other project considerations can be reviewed and agreed upon. For example, ENABLE can be deployed in a scaling batch mode with overnight updates of tens of thousands of boxes during out-of-peak hours. This rollout phase is measured in weeks instead of the months normally associated with a large-scale upgrade program.

From theory to practice

This five-step program is more than just theory. It has already proven to deliver success for progressive pay-TV providers, including Cincinnati Bell (CBT), a major US telecommunications operator. CBT was one of the first companies to ‘upcycle’ its legacy STBs in order to unify its user interface, while bringing in more advanced services and features.

The results of the ENABLE deployment included increased return on capital – eliminating the need to replace legacy STBs, which involves both device and installation costs. It cut the cost of upgrading by 80%. In addition, Cincinnati Bell achieved a rapid time to market by upgrading STBs with software rather than replacing them, meaning that deployment of new services and capabilities took a quarter of the time that a hardware swap-out would have taken.

This level of transformation, combined with major cost savings and quick time to market, is what ‘Operation Upcycle’ is all about. It is a great initiative for us and, based the feedback I’ve received, it’s clear a lot of operators see it as a great opportunity for them.

If you want to learn more, contact us at upcycling@aminocom.com and we can talk through how you can implement your own five-step action plan. Also download our Upcycling e-book at aminocom.com/upcycling.