Home networking continues to evolve as cable operator customers clamor for more content across various devices in their homes.
Aside from the demand for video more content “anytime, anywhere, on any device,” broadband penetration and the migration to IP are also terraforming the home networking landscape.
One area that is emerging is cloud DVR, which allows subscribers to store content from their DVRs in the cloud, or more accurately, in data centers. At the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in October, both Arris and Cisco were showing their cloud DVR offerings, which are both integrated into their respective end-toend home networking platforms.
Cisco’s cloud DVR service is another element of its Videoscape Unity, which stitched together Cisco’s technology with NDS’ after Cisco purchased NDS.
“Consumers have demonstrated time and time again that what they want to do is to be able to watch the content that they want, when they want to watch it on the device they want to watch it on,” said David Yates, director of video solutions marketing, Cisco service provider video group. “They want to do it in home with home networking, but they also want to do it on the go and that is what cloud DVR is moving forward with. A recording can be on the local DVR, it can be in the cloud DVR and then when it comes to the playback you can playback from any device. Not necessarily the device that you started on.”
In order to provision a stream to all of the different devices in and out of a home, Cisco’s cloud DVR service supports the various forms of streaming as well as the content right policies for each subscriber at the headend or in a network operations center.
“With unified control planes, each identity is linked across all of those devices,” Yates said. “You have the same rights on any of the different devices. We do a single ingest and single storage and then on demand encapsulation and delivery to any of the devices.”
Unlike Cablevision’s network DVR, which was granted the right to record videos in the cloud on a per subscriber basis, subscribers move content from their DVRs into the cloud to free up room, or store shows that they want to keep over the long term.
“We have a network DVR solution that is moving the DVR into the cloud and then you can allocate the amount of terabytes to the customer,” said Arris’ Jonathan Ruff, head, global technical marketing. “Once they fill that up they can just add more. It’s not buying another hard drive for the operator. It’s just allocating more of the overall system to the subscribers.”
Customers may opt for the additional storage in the cloud on the fly when they see their in-house recording DVR space about to reach critical mass. In addition to cable operators being able to charge incrementally more for additional cloud storage, cloud DVR services also negate the need for continued swap outs of expensive boxes, and the truck rolls that go with them.
“So how does cloud DVR impact home networking? There are two or three areas,” Yates said. “One is what service providers are wanting—is the ability to move to these new cloud-based services, but in a migratory fashion rather than a forklift kind of way.
Specifically, a number of service providers have asked for the ability to take a customer’s on premise DVR recordings and migrate those into the cloud. As the service migration happens you don’t lose all of your valuable recordings.
“When you do an explicit recording, you can record to a local device or you can record to the cloud, and you can also sort of migrate those recordings from one to the other. You can archive stuff you’ve recorded on premise out to the cloud.
The cloud allows for overflow, it allows migration and it also allows on-the-go viewing, as long as the service provider has permission from the content guys. That content can be delivered to any device where the consumer is out of the house.”
Cisco is expected to have “big news” on its cloud DVR service at next year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
While no cable operator has publicly said it was implementing cloud DVR capabilities to date, the service makes sense for large cable operators such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications.
Home networking shopping cart
Cloud DVR is just one example of how home networking services are evolving. From an operational point of view, cable operators have to plot how to deliver QAM-based and IP-based services to traditional customer premise equipment and customer-owned smart TVs, game consoles and tablets.
“You do need to start to think about blending these two different worlds,” said Matt Kalman, principal, IBB Consulting. “You start to think about the fact that historically QAM-based video delivery, and the video devices that connect to it, typically are almost a closed broadband network. A lot of the time you have some devices on the classic cable network that communicate over protocols like DAVIC in terms of managing them.
“But at the same time when you get to the cloud, the first step is to communicate with your own internal services.
Ultimately you want to communicate with the outside world as well. That’s one of the promises of moving to the cloud. You have this paradigm where some of your cloud navigation services are delivered by the cable operator, but ultimately you want to have a web like experience where metadata and other types of information are provided by third parties. In order to do that, it does present some challenges for sure in terms of home networking and how you connect both the cable operator owned devices in the home network in addition to the customer owned devices in the home network.”
Vendors are hard at work with coming up with various home networking platforms to meet both short-term and longterm goals. Here are some snapshots of what was on the Expo show floor in Atlanta.
Arris—In addition to the end-to-end cloud DVR offering at Expo, Arris had its headless MG 2402 gateway, which was based on the Reference Design Kit (RDK), on display. The MG 2402 is an all in one gateway for quad play services that connects via MoCA 2.0, Wi-Fi and Ethernet. The gateway, based on Intel Puma-6 MG technology, features a hybrid video architecture supporting QAM and IP delivered video.
It supports streaming of live linear television to IP connected devices, whole-home DVR, and a remote user interface. It also supports ZigBee for home automation and security services.
Comcast has deployed the MG 2402 while Cox Communications is reportedly kicking the tires on it.
“This is the gateway that is blending all of the connectivity together,” Ruff said. “It’s obviously a video distribution device for the home because it can transcode and distribute video over the various networks. Consumers don’t need to put 10 boxes in the home, they’re putting just one and connecting it up.”
Rounding out its top-three home networking platforms at Expo, Arris also had its MS 4000 box on hand, which was integrated with Sling Media.
The MS 4000 works in conjunction with Arris’ MG 5000 Media Gateway and can offer up to four simultaneous HD channels.
During Expo, Arris announced it was exclusive worldwide distributor of gateways and standalone devices that integrate Sling technology.
“I think over time you’ll see a lot of these things basically come together as the architectures and product portfolios evolve,” Ruff said.
Evolution Digital— Evolution Digital has been
making strides outside of the United States, specifically Latin America, where it’s unfettered by CableCard requirements.
Evolution has partnered with Cubiware for middleware and Conax for conditional access to enable the migration to IP.
Aside from connecting boxes to TV via Ethernet, Evolution digital president Brent Smith said his company had three options for home networking: Wi-Fi (both 802.11n and 802.11ac), DOCSIS and the tried and true MoCA.
“Obviously it’s not practical to have to hardwire millions of homes with Ethernet cable, so the question has been what is the most efficient way to get the IP connection to these set top boxes? What we’ve developed are really three options one is Ethernet plus built in Wi-Fi, and it’s customizable,” he said. “The next option is DOCSIS so we could embed a DOCSIS 2.0 modem. MoCA seems to be the preferred solution, mostly because of its reliability. The way we look at MoCA on the home networking side is a little different than your traditional gateway solution where the big, fat PVR sits in the home and is effectively the MoCA gateway.”
Smith said a cable operator could put one DOCSIS 3.0 modem in the house, take the output of that modem into a MoCA 2.0 adapter and then inject the MoCA back into the splitter network in the home so that all drops in the home could support regular, linear broadcast QAM, and carry the IP over MoCA.
“That’s really our strategy from a home networking standpoint,” Smith said. “The fact that all of these operators are moving to DOCSIS 3.0 platforms means you could effectively get a 120 megabit, 340 megabit, 500 megabits depending on how many channels they want to allocate. You convert that physical layer connection to MoCA so now you could have this fat pipe within the home.”
ADB—While ADB didn’t have a booth at Expo, Chris Dinallo, senior vice president and general manager of the U.S. cable division, was on hand to explain how its Commercial Video Solution (CVS) could be used by smaller operators for home networking.
“We’ve found our system is very suitable for smaller tier operators because it is an endto- end offering,” he said. “It has the full guide experience, offering real time monitoring, and offering a custom configu- ration of the user interface that an operator can do. It’s not hard coded in the firmware. It’s all web- based technologies and we can work with any CPE device.
“Small operators see our system as suitable for their residential play because now they can host not only their UI from the cloud, but with our system we’ve always been fully DLNA compatible so it works with multiple devices in the home and that ties into the whole home networking experience.”
Under development CableLabs’ Tom Lookabaugh, executive vice president of research and development, said the cable industry consortium has been looking at how all of the various devices will connect in a home using different protocols.
“One of the things that is pretty ob
vious is that a ton of devices, possibly the majority and possibly all, will connect wirelessly, or will want to connect wirelessly,” he said. “There’s quite a bit of energy about how well is that going to work. It’s a moving target but you still have to still put a stake in the ground, so we’re off doing some work on that.
“We’ve been doing a combination of lab testing and field testing using 802.11n and 802.11ac to connect state of the art level stuff to try to get a feel for where we’re at. Then we can do some projections on where things might get to.”
Lookabaugh said CableLabs was also interested in how DOCSIS technology meshes with Wi-Fi, MoCA and Powerline in home networks.
“We also have a significant project where we’re trying to assist the DLNA with CVP-2, which gets the necessary additions for television service and the regulatory obligations like second audio channels, close captioning and that kind of stuff into the DLNA family,” he said “With that a game console vendor or PC vendor can deploy a browser-based solution that will be able to take legal video content delivered by a cable company. That’s not just us though, that’s kind of the whole consumer electronics community and a lot of the folks like the Microsofts and Intels of the world who are interested as well in the home environment.”
From an operational standpoint, TR-069, along with IPDR data, is giving cable operators management functionalities behind the gateways for home networking devices.
Cisco’s Joe Cozzolino, senior vice president/general manager, service provider infrastructure, said more powerful tools were in development, such as soft Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) tunnels or virtual local area network (VLAN) tunnels.
“You could create a tunnel through the gateway and actually see what devices are on the other side,” he said. “So today cable operators know it’s their set top, but they don’t know anything else about the other devices in the house, and they don’t have the ability to push an app onto that television that is being served by that Xbox or PlayStation or directly onto that Samsung smart TV.” ■