The cable industry remains in a quandary over how to implement IP video, with MSOs playing with an array of solutions as they race to implement a technology they hope will provide attractive new services (and the attendant revenue) to add to their business models.

It’s taken barely three years for cablecos to start getting up to speed after first realizing the significant growing impact of IP video, according to ARRIS Broadband CTO Tom Cloonan during a recent industry event in Denver. “The first time MSOs started to notice this (IP video) is when they saw it was consuming more bandwidth than expected,” Cloonan said. Of particular note, he pointed to YouTube’s phenomenal growth in popularity in bringing IP video to the fore.

The problem now, Cloonan continued, is that there is more than one way to skin an IP video stream. For instance, he commented, one could “in theory” meld IP video into DOCSIS, creating a sort of “half-breed approach” Other possibilities include a MPEG/IP hybrid, CMTS bypass and video over CMAP.

“We’re hearing all different approaches talked about by the MSOs,” Cloonan said, going on to make a plea for standardization in the industry. That also would be of benefit to such hardware vendors as ARRIS, which then wouldn’t have to worry about supporting multiple technologies. And Comcast is testing support for Apple and Google’s Android, Time Warner Cable is using Microsoft’s MediaRoom technology, and other major MSOs are playing with just about any other technology so far known.

The Next Big Thing

While there is debate over the “right” technology or technologies to use to deliver IP video, there seems to be little debate over whether IP video is emerging as the “next big thing,” promising MSOs new products and services to sell, including such converged offerings as those linking cellphones, PCs and big screens (and perhaps even home automation and control systems like heating and cooling). That’s in stark contrast to the days when cable’s primary raison d’etre was to dish up TV shows.

“We’re all looking for new business models,” added Jeff Finkelstein, director/Network Architecture at Cox Communications, noting IP video “gives us a great chance to change our business.” Cox already is using IP video technology to deliver 230 channels of video to the splashy new CityCenter in Las Vegas, and it’s reportedly working with TiVo on other projects. Picking up that thread, Edmond Shapiro, vice president/Project Delivery-Americas for NDS, said, “Content becomes just a piece of the services you’re going to provide.”

“You can lose subscribers to Apple and Google or you can add services” using IP video, warned Gerry White, Motorola’s chief architect for network infrastructure. And despite the marked lack of success of previous attempts to deliver video to cellphones, it looks like the concept is making a comeback, and MSOs want in. “The last few years, what we’ve seen is a lot more (mobile video) content … and that’s pushing us to IP video,” said White.

– Stuart Zipper

The Daily

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