CommScope Definitions: What is OTT?

Streaming video has become a popular form of entertainment. No longer are you relying on basic cable for your television needs. Now, you can stream from various subscription services wireless. That type of service is called Over the Top (OTT). In this blog, Mark Alrutz explains the proper definition of OTT services.


This blog post is part of a series called “CommScope Definitions” in which we will explain common terms in communications network infrastructure.

Imagine you are watching television, and a fashion show comes on with runway models clad in aluminum foil evening wear. That’s over the top. Your brother-in-law’s Christmas sweater? Absolutely over the top. Now imagine you are watching television commercial-free, on a set wirelessly connected to your router, or on another wireless device. Is that over the top? It may well be.

CLICK TO TWEET: You probably use OTT but you call it by another name. CommScope's Mark Alrutz explains in this blog.

Over the Top services

OTT is an abbreviation for Over the Top, and it refers to services like video that are delivered to you from the cloud using your service provider’s network. These services are referred to as OTT because they literally ride over the top of other services, some competitive, offered by your network operator. A couple of well-known examples of OTT services are Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

Network operators and OTT providers

Network operators and OTT providers are competitive on many fronts, but they also rely on each other. OTT needs the physical network connectivity to reach subscribers, or more simply put, a network to ride over so you can enjoy your selected entertainment. Network providers do not need OTT, but it is bandwidth consuming content that plays a large role in driving subscriber expectations and fuels the Internet explosion. It is possible that without OTT, high bandwidth services we enjoy today might not yet exist.

This doesn’t mean you should follow your brother-in-law and wear a crazy sweater or commit the act of “putting on the foil.” Let’s leave those “over the top” items alone.