News summary for 6/20/07

Wed, 06/20/2007 - 9:00am

HBO to go all-digital, all MPEG-4 in 2008
By Brian Santo

HBO executive vice president of technology Robert M. Zitter dropped a minor bombshell this morning, saying that HBO is going to transmit content entirely in HD, encoded in MPEG-4, starting next year.

The announcement came during a Cable-Tec Expo panel called Building the Sustainable, Competitive Network, which also hosted executives from Charter Communications, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable. One exec was visibly struck by the info, as if he were immediately calculating the ramifications for his company.

There have been significant improvements in MPEG-4 in the last year, Zitter said, encouraging HBO to make the move. MPEG-2 is still viable, he said, but HBO simply can't transmit 26 channels all in HD using MPEG-2. "MPEG-4 is going to be the silver bullet in our holsters a few years from now."

That will put pressure on cable operators, who will still have plenty of legacy boxes deployed that cannot handle MPEG-4.

"If it was my choice, I would simulcast in 2 and 4," said Marwan Fawaz, CTO of Charter Communications.

Instead, operators will have to deploy transcoders to convert MPEG-4 streams into MPEG-2 video before broadcasting it to those boxes, and start deploying boxes that will accept both forms of MPEG.

Zitter also said HBO intends to transmit its MPEG-4 video at 8 Mbps. When asked how HBO arrived at that rate, Zitter said it was a subjective decision, based on what looked good, with some added overhead for transcoding.

Pace, Broadcom demo channel bonding for DOCSIS 2.0. That's right: 2.0.
By Brian Santo

Pace Micro Technology and Broadcom are working together to demonstrate channel bonding capability for DOCSIS 2.0, using Pace's next-generation HD-DVR set-top box with Broadcom's STB/cable modem silicon.

Bonding up to three DOCSIS 2.0 6-MHz channels can realize transmission rates greater than 100Mbps to be sent to the set-top box for display or pass-through to Ethernet connected devices (routers, PCs, VoIP phones, etc.).

This sizeable pipe can then be used for such applications as offering greater high-speed data access, more content programs that are not currently broadcasted, and additional home networking capabilities, the two companies said.

"This Channel Bonding technology enables cable operators to leverage their existing investments in a DOCSIS 2.0 infrastructure, allowing them to forge ahead and not wait for DOCSIS 3.0 deployments," said Pace Americas VP of Technology Chris Dinallo. "Channel Bonding will help alleviate the bandwidth crunch that cable operators are facing in order to satisfy the ever-increasing appetite for more programming and advanced services that require greater bandwidth," he added.

SCTE announces 2007-'08 board officers
By Brian Santo

Tom Gorman, vice president of engineering at Charter Communications, was elected chairman of the board of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) for 2007-'08.

Gorman said he expects the board to continue moving forward with the strategic focus adopted two years ago with the election of the outgoing board chairman, Yvette Kanouff. That means constantly evaluating how the SCTE can remain viable to its membership in a market where competition is accelerating, while service providers are consolidating.

Gorman said one of his key concerns is how the SCTE can establish its value to employees who have been in the industry for only a year or two. "How can we help one- or two-year employees to see it's a career, not just a job, and that there are benefits to being a member?," he asked.

Part of the answer is helping with knowledge, training, education, and making sure there are opportunities in the business, but also making sure there's some camaraderie among cable engineers, Gorman said. To that end, the Society just established a new certification process for IP technology, and continues to work through its chapters.

Part of the process is making sure the Society is of value to the companies who employ its members, and there's a range of needs there, Gorman said. The largest operators have their own training organizations; it's up to the Society to help augment that. Smaller operators may rely largely on SCTE programs for their employees.

Other officers elected for the 2007-08 board are:

  • Western Vice Chair: Frank Eichenlaub, Scientific Atlanta
  • Eastern Vice Chair: Steven C. Johnson, Time Warner Cable
  • Secretary: Vicki Marts, Cox Communications
  • Treasurer: Greg Allshouse, Comcast Cable Communications
  • Additional Executive Committee Member: Bob Macioch, Time Warner Cable

Following the election of its officers for the year ahead at Expo, the 2007-'08 SCTE Board of Directors conducted its first board meeting. The 2007 edition of SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, the Society's flagship event, is taking place through Friday, June 22, at Orlando's Orange County Convention Center.

Cable-Tec panel: HFC has got legs
By Brian Santo

Hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks may be endlessly flexible, and cable operators may have any number of options for increasing and managing bandwidth, but most networks are operating at capacity now. Something has to give, according to the panelists at the Cable-Tec Expo session called Building the Sustainable, Competitive Network held today.

Reclaiming analog spectrum, switching to MPEG-4, running fiber closer to the home, moving to switched digital video, and using DOCSIS bypass are among the techniques available.

"That's the beauty of the flexibility of HFC technology – there's no one answer," said John Schanz, EVP, national engineering & technical operations, Comcast Cable. Analog spectrum reclamation, HD, targeted advertising, digital grooming are other arrows in the quiver, Schanz noted.

Meanwhile, Charter plans to eventually move all of its systems to switched digital video (SDV), said Marwan Fawaz, CTO of Charter Communications. Operators can also expand their plants to 1 GHz of bandwidth - and beyond, he said.

Panel moderator Leslie Ellis noted the recent blizzard of announcements about passive optical network (PON) technology for cable operators, and asked about plans to adopt the technology.

Jim Ludington, SVP, Advanced Technology Group, Time Warner Cable, pointed out that operators can string fiber closer to homes, or all the way to homes, and the network will still be HFC.

The conversation turned to competing with PON, which AT&T and Verizon are using.

"On average, in a serving area of 300 homes, the majority of those homes are within 1,500 feet of fiber," Fawaz said. "So who has the most fiber? Cable.

"AT&T wants to eventually get to within 1,500 feet," Fawaz continued. "We're already there."

It's all about monitoring your network and knowing precisely where your usage is, said Robert Cruickshank, VP of worldwide OSS strategy/product management, C-Cor, which sponsored the panel. "The trick is making sure you know where you have a hot spot. "With edge QAMs, with DOCSIS bypass, you can get bandwidth exactly where you want it," he said.

In short, MSOs will definitely be able to compete by extending HFC networks. Operators will continue to deploy whatever is required to address any situation, and can do so on a success-based business model.

Buckeye deploys Mixed Signals' Sentry
By Traci Patterson

Mixed Signals Inc.'s Sentry Digital Content Monitor has been deployed by Buckeye CableSystem, the company's first NCTC customer.

The Sentry examines the network's overall transport stream behavior and analyzes signal and stream data patterns, delivering actionable alerts when necessary.

The technology enables Buckeye to verify the continuity and quality of digital video and audio assets, as well as the operability of data-centric apps, digital ad insertion, captioning and parental controls.

The complexity of digital video distribution is increasing, thanks to services such as HD, VOD, interactive TV (iTV), switched digital video (SDV) and targeted advertising.

Mixed Signals debuted Sentry's OCAP carousel and video network IP monitoring capabilities at The Cable Show.

Charter taps Sigma for OSS
By CED staff

Charter Communications has selected Sigma Systems to provide Operations Support Systems (OSS) for the MSO's telephone and high-speed Internet services. The agreement provides Charter with an integrated platform for service provisioning and activation, and resource management across all service domains.

The MSO selected the Sigma Service Management Platform (SMP) to integrate its business, operational and network management systems, and to provide automation of residential and commercial telephone and high-speed Internet service.

"SMP will enable us to cost-effectively consolidate several back office systems and Internet protocol (IP) service networks on to a common platform through multi-service provisioning automation," said Marwan Fawaz, CTO, Charter Communications, in a statement.

Sigma's OSS solutions provide Charter with automated order management, business support system integration, self-care integration, resource management, customer service provisioning and network activation. The package provides inter-carrier gateway integration, call feature management and voice mail provisioning for telephone service, along with management of high-speed Internet, e-mail and Web hosting.

Charter has finished the first phase of the enterprise-wide deployment. Plans are in the works for service support for broadband IP.

Motorola announces 'enhanced' CWDM
By Brian Santo

Motorola introduced its enhanced coarse wavelength division multiplexing technology (E-CWDM), which the company said transmits multiple wavelengths on a single fiber, increasing the bandwidth up to five times, while extending the reach of CWDM by a factor of two.

By transmitting multiple CWDM optical signals over a single fiber optic connection, operators can segment serving areas into three, four or five discrete areas. With each optical signal carrying a full 1 GHz loading of broadcast and narrowcast content, over distances up to 25 kilometers between the hub and optical node, operators can meet the need for additional service capacity for HDTV, VoIP, VOD and high-speed DOCSIS services.

C-Cor, Harmonic combo on switched digital video
By Brian Santo

C-Cor and Harmonic are combining the latter's compression and edge QAM technology with the former's on-demand and advertising management products to create an integrated system capable of switched digital video (SDV).

Components of the solution include C-Cor's nABLE Session and Resource Manager and Harmonic's NSG 9000 universal edgeQAM and ProStream 1000 stream processing platform with Mentor re-encoding technology.

"This solution gives cable operators access to a comprehensive and open switched digital video solution, including everything they need to quickly and cost effectively meet their deployment goals," said Basil Badawiyeh, vice president, on demand strategy, C-Cor.

Concurrent releases new MediaHawk 4500 software
By Traci Patterson

Concurrent has unleashed new software for its MediaHawk 4500 line of servers that will provide additional support for ISA (Time Warner Cable's standard), NGOD (Comcast's standard) and Concurrent back offices.

The software supports the MediaCache 1000—Concurrent's first product in a line of non-volatile, flash memory storage products for the streaming of VOD content—and Regional File Server functionality.

Stream density has improved to 1,920 streams at 3.75 Mbps per 2RU server-the previous MediaHawk 4500 release supported only 1,600 streams.

The best feature, according to Michael Pasquinilli, Concurrent's VP of Engineering, is that an operator can have multiple MediaHawk 4500s sharing a common output to a GigE switch. Any one of the servers can be removed, or taken offline, and the other servers will pick up the load, with no service interruption. And if an additional server is added, it will slowly begin to share streams with the other servers.

The first deployment of the MediaHawk 4500 was with Time Warner Oceanic in January.

PhyFlex flexes new fiber-to-coax converter
By Traci Patterson

PhyFlex Networks has launched the miniX, an outdoor fiber-to-coax media converter that facilitates the delivery of carrier Ethernet services in low penetration situations.

Deployable in fiber-to-the-curb (FTTC) architectures, the miniX was designed to be fiber fed from a PhyFlex FTTxSWITCH. The product converts Ethernet over fiber to carrier Ethernet over coax, which is delivered via a standard coaxial cable drop to the end user.

The miniX's modem is optimized to run over cable drop connections and operates in frequencies above 1 GHz.

Tollgrade debuts broadband wireless access point
By CED staff

Tollgrade Communications is introducing a DOCSIS-based broadband wireless access point, the HyFi 1100, which enables MSOs to leverage their existing HFC network to provide broadband wireless services for city-wide Hotzone and municipal Wi-Fi applications. The company is showcasing the HyFi 1100 at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo. Tollgrade expects the HyFi 1100 to be available for beta trials in the third quarter of 2007, with general availability in the fourth quarter.

When deployed in conjunction with Tollgrade's Consolidated Access Server Application (CASA) software, a network of installed HyFi 1100s will be able to be auto-discovered, remotely configured, and centrally managed for several primary applications. Specifically, the wireless access point will facilitate roaming broadband access for existing cable modem subscribers, as well as public hotspot access within outdoor community spaces.

It also provides secured mobile technician network access, reducing expenses through improved productivity and reduced wireless fees, according to the company.

The HyFi 1100 is designed to support up to four independent IEEE 802.11 a/b/g radios within a single enclosure. Each radio is designed to be configurable to support a variety of wireless, networking and security parameters.

Cox picks Vyyo gear for biz services in Oklahoma
By CED staff

Cox Communications has deployed Vyyo's T1 over HFC solution to deliver business services in Oklahoma. The MSO deployed Vyyo's XMTS V3000 headend modular systems and V311 modems for the delivery of T1 services over the existing Cox HFC infrastructure.

The Vyyo T1 solution allows the deployment of services following the model of the cable industry's high-speed data rollout: a headend-based broadband hub supports T1 traffic over existing HFC plant to and from T1 modems at the customer premises. The modem uses the same drop as existing video or high-speed data service. The system also uses an "enhanced version" of the DOCSIS protocol to provide the low latency and low jitter required for reliable T1 service, according to Vyyo.

The company estimates that T1 service can generate average monthly revenue per unit (ARPU) of up to $400, rather than the $30 to $40 ARPU of cable modem service, with service agreements that typically extend 36 months. Telecom database and marketing company GeoResults also estimates that the cellular backhaul opportunity for cable will reach $42 billion by 2010.

Broadband Briefs for 6/20/07

• Whaleback has VoIP program for MSOs targeting small businesses
Whaleback Systems unveiled a program for its VoIP business telephone solution to enable cable operators to immediately capitalize on the highly profitable small- and mid-sized business (SMB) market. The program features the company's scalable, end-to-end CrystalBlue Voice Service.

Operators who deploy Whaleback's solution will be able to offer SMBs a bundle of 50 advanced user features. A unique selling feature is that the telephony service is, according to the company, the only IP PBX with Key System Unit features such as shared and bridged line appearances, intercom with hands-free response and group paging.

Whaleback Systems said its service is available at an all-inclusive price that eliminates hidden charges and fluctuating monthly bills. Implementing the service requires no additional capital expenditures for soft switches or application servers.




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