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CED Up Front - July 2011

Thu, 06/30/2011 - 8:45pm

CABLE’S LONG AND WINDING BROADBAND ROAD

Cable operators in the United States have invested more than $172 billion to build a broadband infrastructure that has become fundamental to how people live.

The Federal Communications Commission’s survey on broadband adoption – “Broadband adoption and use in America” – released in February 2010 showed that increasing broadband adoption in the U.S. requires coordinated strategies that address the key obstacles preventing some consumers from subscribing to high-speed Internet service.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s November 2010 report – “Exploring the digital nation: Home broadband Internet adoption in the United States” – confirmed that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to closing the digital divide, and that socioeconomic factors such as income and education are important – but not sole determinants of – broadband use.

While cable broadband is available to 93 percent of U.S. households, many consumers who can subscribe to broadband choose not to for a variety of reasons, including a lack of digital training and skills, a lack of perceived relevance to their lives, and affordability concerns.

Twenty-two percent of non-adopters point to a lack of digital literacy as the main reason they are not online. These include people who are not comfortable with computers or, for non-Internet users, are “worried about all the bad things that can happen if I use the Internet.”

And 19 percent of non-adopters do not have broadband because they question its relevance in their lives. They do not believe digital content is sufficiently compelling to justify subscribing. These non-adopters say the Internet is a “waste of time,” do not think there is anything worth seeing online and (for dial-up users) say they are content with their current service.

Other non-adopters cite some aspect of cost as the main reason they do not have high-speed Internet at home. The cost factor breaks out as follows: 15 percent say the price of the monthly bill is too much for them, 10 percent say the cost of a computer is too much, 9 percent say they do not want a long-term service contract or cannot afford the installation fee, and 2 percent cite a combination of these reasons.


EXAMPLES OF CABLE INDUSTRY PARTNERSHIPS AND ADOPTION PROGRAMS

• On May 31, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Comcast announced the launch of Internet Essentials in Chicago.

• Cablevision and Time Warner are providing free and discounted broadband service in partnership with the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) and Computers for Youth. The project is known as NYC Connected Learning.

• In May 2010, Cox Communications launched a low-income adoption program partnership with Fairfax County, Va. The Cox/Fairfax County Broadband Adoption Program is similar to Cox programs in Santa Barbara and Lemon Grove, Calif.

• Charter Communications and One Economy initiated a pilot program in March 2010 with local community agencies in the St. Louis area.

• In 2009, One Economy and Comcast launched a technology learning initiative – the Comcast Digital Connectors program.

• In July 2010, Time Warner Cable and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) partnered to expand broadband technology training to underserved Latino communities throughout the U.S.

• Comcast, Time Warner Cable and the NCTA are sponsors of Project GOAL (Getting Older Adults Online).

• The NCTA’s member companies formulated and presented to the FCC and NTIA an adoption program called A+. The NCTA continues to work with interested stakeholders to advance this concept.


THE FACTS

• Cable broadband is available to 93 percent of U.S. households (124 million homes) and 45 million subscribers.

• Cable now serves 57 percent of broadband subscribers in the U.S.

• In 2010, cable signed up 2.6 million customers, nearly three-quarters of new broadband customers.

• The cable industry has invested more than $170 billion since 1996 to build an extensive fiber-rich national broadband network.

• Cable operators invested $12.4 billion in infrastructure updates in 2010.


CMAP IS DEAD! LONG LIVE CCAP!

The melding of Comcast’s Converged Multiservice Access Platform (CMAP) specification with Time Warner Cable’s Converged Edge Services Access Router (CESAR) spec into CableLabs’ Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) specification wasn’t a Herculean effort since both devices shared common attributes, but the end result does provide more clarity for vendors and cable operators alike (see “Tell me again: What is CCAP?” [/articles/2011/07/open-mic-CCAP.aspx]).

The Cable Show session “Space craft: Transforming the headend with CMAP” was CCAP’s official debut after CableLabs released its CCAP Architecture Technical Report.

CMAP+CESAR=CCAP“The effort to bring the two together was on the order of a few weeks,” said Jeff Finkelstein, Cox Communications’ senior director of network architecture. “There were very few items between CMAP and CESAR for them to discuss.”

CCAP integrates the functions of broadcast and narrowcast QAMs, as well as DOCSIS 3.0 downstream and upstream interfaces. It also includes the option to support passive optical network (PON) termination equipment in the same chassis.

Cable operators are faced with an increasing amount of QAMs taking up more and more rack space, as well as the costs associated with cooling all of those QAMs, as more bandwidth is eaten up by narrowcast services. CCAP also provides a migration roadmap to video over DOCSIS.

“The CMAP and CESAR specifications described the same device with different operational uses,” said Jorge Salinger, Comcast’s vice president of access architecture. “The resulting CCAP specification provides additional clarity on how the same device can be used in both operational models, while the basic elements of CMAP and CESAR are still in place.”

The end result for cable operators is they can now choose to deploy the device as they need to and when they need to.

“One of the key things we have to look at is where we are trying to get to in the long term,” Finkelstein said during the June 14 panel. “As we are moving forward in time for those that have done a modular deployment, we’re continuing to deploy the CMTS core kind of functionality to communicate with DEPI (Downstream External PHY Interface) down to the edge QAM. For those that have done the integrated approach, they’re getting greater and greater densities.”

With CMAP and CESAR now part of CableLabs’ interface specs, cable operators will approach CCAP deployments largely based on their current architectures. Cable operators that are using a modular CMTS architecture will likely pursue a modular CCAP approach, while the same should ring true for integrated CMTS architectures.

“To make a radical shift from one to the other is very complex, and not just from an equipment perspective,” Finkelstein said. “As we are moving forward to CCAP, to take these incremental steps to get toward an integrated chassis seems to be a logical choice for us. Where we go beyond that, there are still many discussions to be had.”

Finkelstein said Cox is looking at having CCAP devices in its labs in late 2012 or early 2013. He said it will be a “lengthy effort” because Cox wants to be methodical with anything that could impact subscribers. Comcast has aggressively pursued bandwidth reclamation through its alldigital conversion and use of digital terminal adapters. As a result, Comcast will move to CCAP implementations sooner than Time Warner Cable, the latter of which chose to use switched digital video for additional bandwidth.

Over the long haul, Time Warner Cable may decide to use CCAP for its transition to IP video, which would be several years down the road.

Salinger said Comcast is still on track to conduct its CCAP trial later this year, with the first deployment slated for next year.

There are various ways to slice CCAP implementations, including “CCAP lite” that Finkelstein said will increase densities in the short term by collapsing video and data into the same physical ports. CCAP lite could use the deployed technologies with additional CCAP functionalities, such as the combined network and a better management interface to reduce equipment.

With DOCSIS and video QAMs being moved to a single platform, Finkelstein said CCAP devices are very complex and that staging might take place in phases by “eating the elephant one bite at a time.”


THE TAXONOMY OF THE CABLE SHOW ANNOUNCEMENTS

TV Everywhere

TV Everywhere was the dominant theme at The Cable Show, with a plethora of multiscreen-related announcements each day.

RGB VMG TransAct PackagerSome vendors teamed up, like BigBand and Clearleap, which integrate the former’s vIP Pass with the latter’s Stream On Demand system to enable the streaming of linear and on-demand content to any IP-connected device. Alcatel-Lucent and thePlatform, meanwhile, offer a multi-screen platform that supports the delivery of live TV, VOD and TV Everywhere services to a variety of screens.

Motorola Mobility’s multiscreen service enables MSOs to merge video content (linear and on-demand) with social networking, games and Webbased content. And RGB, with its Video Multiprocessing Gateway (VMG) and TransAct Packager, helps ops deliver multi-screen video and advertising to all screens.

Imagine Communications offers its new Ice Streaming System, which delivers video across multiple devices with compression efficiency. And Avail-TVN is using transcoding systems from start-up Elemental Technologies to deliver more than 100 channels of content to a range of end devices.

Also of note: NDS’ Unified Headend manages all of an MSO’s services to multiple devices with one system, and This Technology’s MetaWare Product Suite is a single platform for metadata authoring and distribution across VOD, TV Everywhere, nDVR and IPTV.

And SeaChange introduced multi-screen user interface (UI) software based on HTML5 and has lined up one major MSO in the U.S. that intends to deploy the new Nitro UI.

The Cloud

The cloud was another dominant theme at The Cable Show. ActiveVideo showed how HTML5 applications can be delivered to set-top boxes or any video streaming decoder through its CloudTV app platform, and the vendor also demonstrated how multichannel video service providers can use its CloudTV platform to deliver a unified, next-generation “iVOD” experience to multiple screens.

EchoStar's HC-620DRS

EchoStar Technologies hit the market with three new HD set-top boxes. The new STBs are especially appropriate for customers of EchoStar’s hosted TV services, called Aria, which provide cloudbased services that include remote DVR programming, interactivity and TV Everywhere.

And Zodiac Interactive showcased the social media and messaging solution suites of its PowerUp AMS platform, which provides a cloud-based software server infrastructure through which service providers can unify Web, mobile and set-top box device technologies with enterprise and third-party services, as well as Web-based applications.

IPv6

Separate from the IPv6 Summit at The Cable Show, D-Link showed its DCM-301 DOCSIS 2.0 cable modem and its DCM-704B DOCSIS 3.0 cable gateway, and the company showcased its IPv6 offerings at the IP Pavilion.

Advertising

This Technology debuted new services – the SpotLink Ad Decision Service Router and SpotLink Data Boundary Manager – that have the potential to alter the cable advertising market by rationalizing the process by which MSOs support different Ad Decision Services (ADS) for different businesses. The new services build off of the company’s SpotLink.

Harris Targeted Advertising Platform - Click to ENLARGE

Also, BlackArrow showcased enhancements to the BlackArrow Advanced Advertising System – which enables centralized, multi-platform ad management across devices – in the context of a live VOD market scenario. And Harris demonstrated its new Targeted Advertising platform.

CPE

Cisco was in semi-stealth mode at the show with its new hybrid IP video gateway, only showing the new all-in-one concept box to invited guests. Cisco’s Generation 8, or G8, gateway can enable services such as TV Everywhere today, all the way to full-blown IP video down the road.

Meanwhile, Technicolor provided a custom-developed box for use in Comcast and Skype’s video conferencing service, and Motorola Mobility engaged with Time Warner Cable to develop a video gateway platform, the DCX3600M, capable of delivering an advanced in-home entertainment experience. Moto is also co-developing – with Comcast – a wireless whole-home DVR alternative, a tuning device that hooks directly to a Wi-Fi router to create connectivity with any IP device anywhere in the home.

TiVo Premiere Q

Also for ops: Universal Electronics shipped its universal remote controls to Cox for use with the operator’s Trio interactive guide, and TiVo announced the TiVo Premiere Q, its first-ever quad-tuner gateway STB, and the TiVo Preview, its first non-DVR HD set-top.

The tag teams: SeaChange’s VividLogic tru2way software stack is at the heart of tru2way STBs Panasonic has created for the North American cable market. And Pace partnered with chumby industries to mix in interactive apps on its set-top boxes – via Pace’s App Café.

Also of note: NDS’ Unified Gateway integrates residential gateway, home networking and whole-home DVR technology into one device.

Chumby / Pace App Cafe

DOCSIS 3.0

Arris boasted some DOCSIS “firsts” at the show.

Arris C4One was demonstrating real file transfer throughput of 4.5 Gbps of DOCSIS downstream traffic being transmitted over 128 DOCSIS downstream channels into a single fiber node. An Arris C4 CMTS was configured using four newly released 32 Downstream Cable Access Modules (32D CAMs) to source the 128 DOCSIS downstream channels into the fiber node.

And the second was showing a proof-of-concept implementation of a 5-200 MHz high-split DOCSIS upstream system with 575 Mbps of DOCSIS upstream bandwidth being transmitted over 24 DOCSIS upstream channels out of a single fiber node. This demo used a single Arris 24U CAM to receive the upstream spectrum from a fiber node.

QoE

Great Lakes Data Systems introduced a tool created for cable technicians that hooks into GLDS’ back office so that techs have access to all of the info necessary to make sure an installation or repair can be performed without referring back to corporate.

And improved customer care and navigation capabilities highlight upgrades of Amdocs’ pre-integrated solution for mid-tier and independent cable operators, its Multi-Play Smart Pack product.

QoS

Sandvine launched its Traffic Management Dashboard, the latest addition to its Network Analytics product. The dashboard enables ISPs to monitor the congestion of network resources at a granular level and to respond appropriately to ensure a quality subscriber experience.

And Concurrent showed a service based on a set of analytical tools Arris’ C4 that monitor several media quality parameters across multiple screens. The company’s Advanced Media Data Logistics Platform includes data monitoring and auditing technologies, supports best practices for handling end-to-end data processes, and provides intelligence in the domain of cross-service data management solutions.


Nagra-OpenTV’s Woidke Tees Up Advertising

CED’s Mike Robuck spoke with Paul Woidke, senior vice president and general manager of advanced advertising at Nagra-OpenTV, about the state of advertising in the cable industry.

CED: We’ve reached the halfway point of the year. What is the status of advertising for cable operators?

Woidke: Cable operators are continuing to make strides in the development and deployment of advanced advertising technologies. The RFI capabilities that Canoe Ventures has launched demonstrate the willingness of operators and programmers to work more closely together to generate revenue streams with advertising “units” Paul Woidkethat have only existed, broadly, in television for the past year. Of course, the Canoe activities are supported by the pronounced effort of MSOs to broadly deploy EBIF as a common, ubiquitous link that allows a national footprint to be reached. And CableLabs’ effort to continue to enhance the EBIF platform with ongoing revisions is a clear indication that interactivity will provide advertisers with a national audience.

CED: Is advertising ready to expand into VOD and addressable advertising? It seems like we’ve been on the cusp for several years now.

Woidke: While the momentum has built for interactivity, it is still nascent for addressability – that is true. Now the good news is that progress is being made. You can’t look at the full footprint of addressable deployment at Cablevision without recognizing that linear addressability is an actionable product that can be deployed. It is difficult to do in the linear space, but I think that the capability and return that will be shown in the New York market is going to be significant.

Of course, in the VOD space, “addressable,” as such, is defined by the notion of the on-demand content itself being selected by a viewer. The DAI (dynamic advertising insertion) issues have been resolved by operators and vendors working together, and there are no technological hurdles of any significance left for VOD addressable. The Advanced Advertising Media Project (AAMP) is clearly taking the steps necessary to look at the business issues and use cases that will support this important development.

There is far more revenue upside for operators – in both linear and ondemand – as a result of addressable technologies than in any other single advanced advertising product. If AAMP’s work in the on-demand space helps resolve some of the business cases, then we will see addressable technologies deploy that much more quickly.

CED: Is there an educational curve for SCTE 130 and CableLabs’ SaFI for vendors and partner companies?

Woidke: Well, any time that you are pursuing deployments of new technologies and new products, there will always be a learning curve. I think that product vendors and operators alike would agree. But when we refer to the standards and specifications such as those that you mention, I think that their purpose and value needs to be understood differently. These do not represent “hurdles” that need to be leapt; in fact, these are tools that help map the course for developing (vendors) and deploying (operators) products that work together harmoniously and with less effort than handcrafting every interface.

Both SCTE and CableLabs have remained attuned to the development process, and the standards and specifications continue to be refined and enhanced as the industry learns through the process.

CED: As chairman of Working Group 5 of the SCTE’s Digital Video Subcommittee (DVS), can you tell us what the focus is this year and over the next few years in regard to advertising?

Woidke: Well, as I just mentioned, our ongoing work with SCTE 130 is one of the keys to the advanced advertising environment and infrastructure. Likewise, even the oldest digital advertising standard, SCTE 35, has just recently undergone revision to keep it current with the industry’s changes. While there will be continued efforts in some of the emerging areas such as 3-D, home networking, audio levels and IPTV technologies, for the moment, I think that we are looking at a time of consolidation of knowledge and experimentation within the existing framework rather than radical changes.

CED: In terms of advanced advertising, what did Nagra-OpenTV demonstrate at The Cable Show?

Woidke: I guess our theme for this year was “tablets and pads.” We showed the applicability of those handheld devices to advertising in both the viewer’s hands and in the hands of the advertising sales department. Over in the CableNet area, we partnered with This Technology to show how advertisers can synchronously display a television advertisement that is linked to an iPad application that leaves the viewer with links to specific information about the product just seen on TV. As statistics show that more and more TV viewing is accompanied by a tablet or cell phone device being at hand, this is a great opportunity for advertisers to provide a viewer with a quick way to get more info while not interrupting the program.

In our booth, we showed how the advertising sales team of an operator can go into the field with a tablet device that links back to the business analytics database in their sales office. With our partner Decentrix, we showed that the historical and trend information that is so critical to negotiations can be instantly available to a sales representative as they work with an agency or advertiser.

CED: How is the integration of OpenTV with Nagra going? What are the benefits to the two companies, cable operator customers and the cable industry as a whole?

Woidke: Nagra’s broad product line of digital television services and its worldwide sales force are great opportunities benefiting the advanced advertising team. We are working on end-to-end solutions that can be tightly integrated with Nagra set-top box components, such as middleware and conditional access, and also tied with the service delivery platform (SDP) for a robust solution. We are delighted with the emerging advertising opportunities in many of the world’s markets and have a great global team of sales people to help us reach the operators in those areas.

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