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EXPO: IP video – How to get there from here

Thu, 10/21/2010 - 8:25am
Mike Robuck

IP video has been one of the hot topics this week at Expo, but cable operators are still sorting out how they'll make the gradual transition to IP.

During the "IP video migration & architecture" session, two pathways to IP video were presented, and while they had some elements in common, such as the use of content delivery networks and media data centers, there were some big differences.

Cisco's Dave Brown, manager of technology architectures, titled his paper "Death of the headend: How IP will transform cable services." Brown said that cable operators can eliminate headends through the use of media data centers, Web services and increased cable modem termination bandwidth for video over DOCSIS.

Brown said the first video wave was digital video and on-demand services to TVs, followed by a second wave by telcos that essentially mimicked the same services. But the third wave is the game-changer.

"What this third wave of IP video is going to bring is a much more significant transformation," Brown said. "It's about the delivery of video content anywhere, on-net or off-net, to all sorts of difference devices, like TVs, iPads, PlayStations, etcetera. It also enables a new business model transformation, as you can bring in ecosystem partners like Netflix and Amazon that used to be competitors to drive additional revenue."

Brown outlined several tenants that are necessary for the transition to IP. The first is building on Web services such as Flash, HTML5 and Internet-style DRMs. The second is CDNs that can scale both multicast and unicast streams for on-net and off-net delivery of content to different devices.

IP networks also need intelligence throughout to ID problems, and the architecture should be client-agnostic for different codecs, bit rates and DRMs. In order to achieve all of the above, cable operators need virtualized media data centers, IP NGN transport and the ability to provision video in a home or on the move to a customer.

On the flipside, Knology's Rickey Luke, vice president and chief scientist, said he doesn't envision the death of master or secondary headends. Luke and Arris senior engineer Brian Drachman collaborated on the white paper "A comparative analysis of different paths from today to a pure IP video architecture."

In order to transition to IP, Luke and Drachman said the following need to take place in their "utopian" model:

  • Need HFC spectrum
  • Move to all-digital channels
  • Insert IP video CPE
  • Enable high-density, low-cost downstream DOCSIS carriers
  • Move to H.264-capable set-tops
  • Add flexible IP-based transcoders
  • Add IP video servers

Luke said adding new services over IP is key to moving customers into new customer premises equipment in order to replace their MPEG-2 legacy boxes in the field.

"We need to get some compelling services to get them to the new CPE because we don't want to do both MPEG-2 and H.264."

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