YouTube will not pay for network capacity but it will squeeze traffic

Video-sharing site talks up capabilities of VP9 codec for compressing video traffic; says users need to be able to ‘flip channels’ on YouTube.

YouTube on Tuesday described the world’s telecoms operators as ‘fantastic partners’, but unsurprisingly said it had no interest in paying for the load it puts on their networks. However, it is throwing the operator community a bone in the form of Google’s VP9 codec, which promises to compress video traffic and is gaining support from the vendor community.

“[YouTube is] trying to be a better partner in the ecosystem,” said Francisco Varela, global head of platform partnerships at YouTube, speaking at the TV Connect event in London.

“[The telcos] are fantastic partners,” he said, referring in particular to Vodafone in Europe, operators in Japan and Korea, and a number of partnerships the video-sharing service has forged in the IPTV space.

But those partnership deals do not, and will not, extend to paying for traffic on telco networks.

“We provide a demand for their services,” said Varela. When it comes to paying for access to their networks, “I don’t see that developing for us,” he said. “[That] skews the Internet in the wrong way.”

However, YouTube does require robust networks to provide a good experience for end users.

“The speed at which you receive that video is key,” Kaiser said, adding that YouTube’s future lies in being able to give users the ability to flip through content the way they would traditional TV channels.

One way to boost speeds is to “make that pipe bigger,” but that’s a question of network investment, which is “something we don’t control,” he said.

The other option is to shrink the amount of data, which is where Google’s VP9 codec comes in. VP9 halves the bitrate compared with Google’s previous compression format, VP8, which did not garner broad support from the hardware makers, and is an alternative to the licence-based H.265 video codec used in many 4K TV implementations.

VP9 looks to have wider industry support than VP8. YouTube announced 19 partners, including chipset makers and OEMs, at CES in January. These companies will support VP9 from 2015.

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