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Cox dips its toe in IP waters with live streaming to iPad

Wed, 11/16/2011 - 10:01am
Mike Robuck

Cox's Steve NecessaryIn a Cable-Tec Expo that has largely lacked breaking news, Cox provided the two biggest nuggets to date: It’s launching a live streaming service, called Cox TV Connect, during the holiday season, and separately, it has pulled the plug on its wireless phone service.

Cox’s Steve Necessary, vice president of video product development and management, said Cox TV Connect will make its debut during the holiday season with 35 national channels, but with no live sports out of the starting block.

In short, the service seems to be provisioned like Time Warner Cable's iPad app; but while Comcast and Time Warner Cable have had iPad apps in customers' hands for some time, Cox beat Comcast to the punch on live streaming in homes.

Cox paired up with NDS Group to develop the user interface and digital rights management on the iPad app. Cox previously worked extensively with NDS on its Trio guide.

Cox customers can only receive the service in their homes through their cable modems. Necessary said the technology is in place for cable operators to deliver the same service beyond customers’ homes, but the rights issues still need to be worked out with the studios and content owners.

Necessary referred to Cox TV Connect as the company’s own over-the-top service, and while it’s free to Cox customers that subscribe to the 35 networks, Cox forked out significant funds to build an infrastructure in Atlanta to convert MPEG-2 to MPEG-4.

The service is also a way to get Cox moving down the migration path to video over IP.

“The infrastructure that we’ve added to support this application is foundational to the delivery of IP video on a managed service, full-QoS basis,” Necessary said. “Fundamentally, this is our own over-the-top service when you think about it, so it’s best effort based on the capacity at the time. But it is foundational, so to extend the metaphor, you can just think of this as one of the bricks in that foundation. Over time, there is more capacity.

“The good news is we’re going to continue to leverage the DOCSIS environment for the delivery of IP video. The bad news of today’s current DOCSIS, specifically CMTSs, is that they don’t scale cost-effectively for large-scale video delivery. So what we’re waiting on is CCAP, the next-generation CMTS environment. That’s going to be critical for enabling a more scaled, full-QoS delivery of IP video. These are steps down the path.”

Necessary said Cox could have opted for a device-based iPad app, which would provision video wirelessly to iPads and other tablets, but that approach wasn’t foundational to Cox’s IP network evolution.

Cox TV Connect complements the company’s Web-based TV Everywhere portal, which was launched earlier this year.

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