Encoders Aim to Ease MPEG-4 Transition

ATLANTA --  While cable operators are facing the need to convert MPEG-4 video into the older MPEG-2 format, telcos have the opposite need--since there’s a lot of video content available only in the latter form today.

At the TelcoTV show here, Tandberg Television was showing off its iPlex UltraCompression transcoder to provide MPEG-2-to-MPEG-4 conversion for both standard- and high-definition.

“MPEG-2 is ubiquitous,” said Matt Goldman, vice president of technology for compression systems. “But if you have DSL, you want your video in MPEG-4 because you will always have bandwidth constraints.”

In addition, Goldman noted, the Federal Communications Commission has mandated that TV broadcasters use MPEG-2, which is compatible with most digital TVs, as part of the mandate to move to all-digital transmission by February 2009. That means telcos with MPEG-4 infrastructures will need some way to get local TV content to their subscribers.

The “brute force” way to do this conversion is to take the MPEG-2 video down to baseband and then convert it into MPEG-4 -- but that’s expensive, he noted.

Meanwhile, Scientific Atlanta was demonstrating a prerelease version of the D9520 Video Content Converter, a four-rack-unit-high system that can take 20 standard-definition MPEG-2 channels into MPEG-4.

Tony Stanley, Scientific Atlanta’s director of marketing and business development for telco, said the D9520 will ship early in 2008 and run around $7,000 per channel.

“One of the issues for smaller guys is the sheer cost of building out an MPEG-4 headend,” Stanley said.