The streaming industry is rapidly growing during the pandemic. In the Video Streaming segment, the number of users is expected to amount to 729.6 million users by 2025 (Statista, 2021). BaishanCloud is a China and Southeast Asia area expert in the content delivery network to address enterprise clients’ content delivery and acceleration needs. To better ensure smooth and high-quality live streaming, here are industry insights and best practices shared from Baishan, given its geographic advantages and expertise in Asia.
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Overview of Streaming Opportunities in China
The China Internet Market is home to the largest internet community globally, with 1.01 billion internet users in 2021 (Record Trend@ FinTech). Due to China being the world’s largest streaming user base, its unique technology capabilities, economic environment, and user behavior have made it a strategic market that you can’t miss.
During the past five years, China’s average download speed of mobile broadband has increased by about six times. Mobile internet fees have dropped by over 90 percent, which has led to an average of 9.3 Exabytes of mobile data consumed per month in China (Cisco, 2021). The high availability and low cost of mobile Internet have substantially increased live e-commerce, mobile gaming, short videos, and social entertainment. The upcoming commercialization of 5G will further diversify streaming scenarios and create more revenue opportunities for businesses across different industries.
China’s increasing GDP and purchasing power enable the 400 million middle class to consume authentic content overseas, such as luxury brand events, entertainment streaming, and online education offered by international institutes. Over 720 million gamers are looking for gaming content from the best game providers across the globe (Fortune, 2021). Businesses are also expanding overseas and actively seeking enterprise conferencing and streaming solutions.
In short, China is a prominent streaming market maturing very quickly. China offers an unparalleled opportunity for any business that produces or distributes streaming content.
Outlook of Streaming Market in Southeast Asia
On the other hand, Southeast Asia is home to 463 million internet users across its six most significant countries (We Are Social Singapore, 2021). The latest research by Google indicates that the internet economy of this region will reach $300 billion by 2025, making it the fastest-growing internet economy in the world.
Under that umbrella, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines represent sizeable and fast-growing markets for streaming services. The increase in access to the Internet has contributed to lower costs of mobile devices, which has caused growing user accounts in these significant countries to increasingly use live e-commerce, online media, and online travel. Additionally, Southeast Asia has the most engaged mobile users in the world. In the past three years, engagement on video apps in this region has doubled with live streaming.
Southeast Asia has become a target for streaming media players from both the region and across the world. Big companies such as Tencent, TikTok, and Disney Plus have all been heavily investing in these emerging markets to lock in consumers as they start to develop mobile internet habits. Users in this area are more cost-sensitive and more diverse in terms of language and culture. The censorship-free market is open to overseas companies with leading-edge technology and content, thus accelerating growth.
Challenges to Deliver Streaming Content to Approach the Fast-growing Market in Asia
Cross-border delivery can be challenging for service providers tapping into a new market with inadequate knowledge about the local policies and regulations, business environment, and culture.
The First Challenge is network issues. The lack of PoPs, bandwidth, and low level of connectivity with local ISPs, all seriously affect the delivery performance, which can also cause network latency and service availability issues, especially in countries where the telecom landscape is fragmented with inadequate carrier-level network connectivity. In India, for example, foreign companies planning to deliver content to the local market will have to register locally and set up their business entity before connecting with any local ISPs.
The Second challenge is security issues. Cyberattack is one of the most severe problems that network service providers are facing today. Protection of customers’ data over the Internet has become increasingly critical, prompting many security functions and features to be rolled out by vendors frequently. Given the enormous volume of DDoS attacks, it is essential to work with reliable vendors like BaishanCloud with the resource and capability to detect the attacks, protect customers’ data, and fully integrated security functions on their edge delivery platform, that contributes to safeguarding customer data without sacrificing performance.
It is essential for enterprises collaborating with local CDN vendors to work with government-licensed vendors that have securely established their complete data management processes with data encryption. It’s highly recommended to find a local partner that has its internal compliant mechanisms to ensure customer data protection through customer verification, data transmission, and storage stages.
With the local partnership experiences in streaming, BaishanCloud recommends the following best practices when it comes to delivering streaming content cross border to Asia:
Best Practice 1: Understand Your User Distribution
It is essential to understand that China and Southeast Asia countries have a unique network environment where a few very state-owned ISPs dominate the network. Competition among them is intense that results in minimal peering with each other. Most of the data centers you see in China are single lined with one ISP. BGP resources are scarce and expensive.
At the same time, when evaluating providers, use tools to test the website performance from the cities and the ISPs of your target users to get the most representable data. Performance metrics are connecting time, time to the first frame, and buffer rate. Play per user and duration per user metrics will investigate if you are doing a video on demand or video-based social media platforms.
Learn More about what BaishanCloud offers to deliver your streaming content: https://www.intl.baishancloud.com/streaming2
Best Practice 2: Optimize Streaming Quality and Availability (move your content library or stream origin closer to the end-users)
It’s commonly known that geographic distance adds latency. Moving your content library or stream origin closer to your users saves you almost 100ms every round trip. The average network latency from China to Seattle or Paris is 250ms or more (Baishan backbone monitoring). However, the latency from China to its nearby country is usually less than 100ms which is very significant as it contributes to a positive user experience.
One of the tasks to a continued user experience is to have a backup origin and error-based failover to minimize the disruption while maintaining the viewing quality. Stream quality-wise, adaptive bitrates are critical for China and Southeast Asia countries as users’ network quality vary. There are currently people in tier 3 or rural areas still using single-digit megabit networks!
Therefore, when preparing streams, it becomes essential to prepare for the lowest bitrate to the highest, enabling coverage of all network types.
Leveraging a local CDN, like BaishanCloud to push your streams closer to the users is necessary. For Video On Demand, the TTL (Time to Live) can be set to weeks or months. For live streaming, even though the streams are in real-time, you should always cache the manifest file on a local CDN whenever possible to improve performance and reduce the load to your origin.
Best Practice 3: Ensure Content Compliance
Each Asian country has its own content regulation policy. For example, China is well-known for its so-called “Great Firewall,” which blocks access to major social networks from the Western world. It is crucial to review your content to ensure compliance with local law to avoid getting on the government’s radar. If any content on your website or application is flagged as inappropriate, your content license can be revoked, or even worse, your root domain is blocked. Therefore, it’s vital to audit your content. Pay close attention to user-generated content. Reviewing and removing anything inappropriate before the government reaches out should be standard practice.
If you have a growing number of users, consider implementing image-based or text-based filtering logic to audit the streams frame-by-frame. This will enable you to react more efficiently and quickly. Then you integrate your auditing logic with the CDN’s purging API to automatically remove any content flagged by your systems.
Even with the auditing logic in place, there might be times when the government asks you to remove specific content. That’s when it’s essential to work with partners in China or SEA that have already established the abuse reporting process with local ISPs. Baishan is working with all the ISPs in China and most SEA countries. When there is any concerning content on a customer’s website, the ISP will reach out to Baishan instead, and Baishan will remove the reported content. Moving forward, it will become essential to work with our customers and avoid getting flagged again.
Best Practice 4: Recognize Regional Hijacking Behavior
Some of the hijacking behaviors might be initiated by the ISPs. The biggest driver for ISP to hijack the content is to avoid the pricy bandwidth cost crossing to another ISP; that is how they keep the range within their network. When your users in China and SEA countries report seeing unique content from your site or other performance issues, it’s a red flag. You will notice that the serving IP address does not belong to you or your CDN provider. If you suspect ISPs are hijacking your content, you can report it to the local government directly or reach out to your solution provider and ask them to work with their ISP to remove the hijacking.
About Us: Baishan’s edge-cloud platform provides services including neutral infrastructure, cloud-native security, developer services, and more. Over the past six years, our network has grown to cover six continents with 600+ PoPs worldwide. Baishan has filed for more than 570 IP patents in different areas of content delivery, now serving over 1,000 clients globally. We aim to continue offering comprehensive solutions for global sectors to approach Asian markets.
Brett Roberts, Senior Global Account Director at BaishanCloud, a China and SEA Expert in content delivery network providing solutions to secure seamless live streaming for enterprise clients.