Cable, which must be thinking that HDTV stands for Headache Detonation Television for the migraines it’s causing, took another couple hammer blows to the head this week as IPTV and satellite got high definition boosts.
First, Amino Communications, an IPTV set-top box maker, has teamed with Accedo Broadband to integrate high definition gaming into its set-top boxes.
"If you look at statistics, there’s a very high percentage of people on the Internet actually playing games rather than watching video," said Rory Betteridge, product manager for Amino Communications. "That’s going to be a trend in the future when we talk about set-top boxes; people are going to use them more for playing games. We constantly get customers asking us for games."
Even better is to have high definition games, he said, and "we’re the only one pushing HD graphics."
So why not push these HD graphics on cable set-tops? There seem to be a few more people using cable to watch television than IPTV. Why not put Accedo games on Comcast‘s networks?
"It’s strictly IP because we need the broadband connection in order to network traffic to the set-top box," said Fredrik Andersson, vice president of business development at Accedo. "There are a number of different technologies existing in the cable market, OCAP and many other different technologies, but we’re primarily targeting the IPTV market. In the near future, you’ll have this new standard DOCSIS 3.0 (or, as Ronald Reagan said, "there you go again"), which will enable companies such as Amino to target that market as well, and if they’re doing that, we’ll try to follow them." It’s raining HD Meanwhile, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s 1080p high definition, from a new Harmonic encoder. Even in its most basic format, 1,080 lines of progressive scan at 24 frames per second (1080p24), this new MPEG-4-based compression scheme should blow away current 720p and 1080i (interlaced) HD picture quality, said Arnaud Perrier, senior manager, encoder product marketing at Harmonic.
"There’s a clear difference and a viewing enhancement just by the nature of the progressive scan itself," he said. "It’s probably an even bigger leap than when DVD players went from interlaced to progressive scan on the existing TV sets."
And who will benefit?
"I think it’s mostly the satellite industry," Perrier said. "Cable is lagging behind in AVC (Advanced Video Coding, also known as MPEG-4 AVC), so HD MPEG-2 set-tops don’t support 1080p to start with. To keep up with the momentum, the cable guys will have to launch some kind of 1080p VOD service in AVC as opposed to MPEG-2 and introduce new set-tops for that."
And the predictions get worse – especially if you’re a cable stalwart.
"Satellite and IPTV guys, because they have greenfield and HD AVC set-tops for the most part deployed, will take advantage of this capability to differentiate and offer premium HD services for movie channels," he continued. "As a result, cable will have to do something about it."
On the silver lining side, the even more advanced 1080p with 50 to 60 frames per second used for live content and sporting events won’t be ready until 2009 or so. And when it is, it will give everyone a migraine because it will consume about 60 percent more bandwidth than 1080i (not a problem for cable, which has tons of bandwidth just sitting in the attic ready to be dusted off, of course, especially when it has ready access to The Force, aka DOCSIS 3.0), as well as "new set-tops, new infrastructure and new content (that) will take more time for operators to roll out," Perrier said.
Before then, though, satellite and IPTV guys will have 1080p24 as a video differentiator in a space where the quality of the picture coming through that $2,000 50-inch HDTV is going to make a world of difference. – Jim Barthold