The Internet Protocol television (IPTV) marketplace is a busy, polyglot gathering of technology arms dealers and service providers of various stripes.

At last week’s IPTV World Forum, cable accounted for only one of six tracks (or "streams"). The other five aimed at these segments: satellite, home networking, interactive advertising, TV over the Internet, and mobile TV. Like the other service providers represented in that mix, cable operators are themselves in the midst of various network transitions.

That transition was exemplified in the one award (of 10) handed out last Wednesday that distinctly honored "cable IPTV" technology.

That award went to Harmonic for its "direct-to-edge" cable IPTV solution, which proposes its narrowcast services gateway (NSG) 9000 universal edge QAM device as a way to leverage an MSO’s existing DOCSIS and digital video infrastructure for IP video delivery.

Harmonic VP Business Development and Marketing Communications David Price characterized it as a second take on an IPTV proposal offered at last year’s CableLabs Summer Conference. That particular demo swept that event’s Innovation Showcase polling and was subsequently explained in the November issue of Communications Technology.

Whether MSOs should make use of existing technology to launch IPTV or wait, for instance, for the faster throughputs of DOCSIS 3.0 is a live question. As discussed in last week’s "IPTV Thought Experiments," channel bonding could bring significant benefits to IP-based video delivery. On the other hand are competitive forces, opportunity costs and technical developments that take their own time.

"Although we’ve made a lot of progress in DOCSIS 3.0 over the past few months, its not there yet," said Mourad Veeneman, VP design and architecture at UPC Broadband.

While the DOCSIS 3.0 timeline lengthens, some smaller cable or hybrid cable/telco operators are considering other "bypasses" to their CMTS infrastructure, such as that offered by GoBackTV and favored by Florida-based Marco Island Cable.

An operator could use standard DOCSIS 2.0 cable modems and off-the-shelf IPTV set-top boxes for a here-and-now solution, but that will not suffice for others. "Not a single operator will buy a system from us that is not (DOCSIS) 3.0-upgradable," said ARRIS Group VP Advanced Technology Mark Bugajski.

"The bypasses that you have seen are not forward-compatible," he said.

– Jonathan Tombes

The Daily

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