Flipping Video’s IP Switch

Switched digital video is not a new technology, but Adara Technologies, a supplier that’s been focused on independent cable operators, has added a new wrinkle that could help those providers migrate to IP video without breaking the bank.

MSOs such as Cablevision Systems (now part of Altice), Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications have used SDV for years to conserve bandwidth by putting lesser-viewed networks on “switched” tiers. The idea is to send a multicast stream of a specific channel or network only when a viewer in a given service group selects it for viewing. Once that stream is nailed up, others in the service group can tune into that stream. The multicast stream is then torn down when no one is watching that channel.

But Adara has taken SDV to the next level, enabling cable operators to deliver their full video service — not just the long-tail stuff — in a switched environment. The company recently carved out that switched-IP solution as a standalone product.

Adara has plenty of company in that arena, though. Evolution Digital, for example, is pitching National Television Cooperative members and other independent operators on IP video transition strategies that center on its new eVUE-TV platform.

Adara has expanded beyond its early reliance on a Cisco-centric offering to support multiple vendor platforms and set-tops, including products from equipment makers such as Arris and TiVo.

“We changed the purpose of switched-IP video,” Joseph Nucara, Adara’s CEO and cofounder, said. “It’s not just for long-tail [content] anymore.”

Under Adara’s approach, an operator can set aside channels that are typically used for broadcast TV to the new switched-IP video QAMs. Legacy set-tops, meanwhile, are preserved by embedding software from Adara that allows those devices to support the new IP-based multicast video streams.

Because new boxes aren’t required, “It’s extremely non-intrusive to the subscribers,” Nucara said.

He estimates that deployment requires freeing up eight to 24 6MHz-wide channels, depending on how much headroom the MSO needs to accommodate capacity demands.

“It’s like bandwidth on demand,” Nucara said.

Adara’s system monitors usage in real-time, and is designed to flag the operator when available bandwidth usage for the IP switched offering nears the 80% mark on a consistent basis. That, Nucara said, tells the operator when it needs to add capacity to those service groups or subdivide them.

Because that spectrum is now used to deliver IP-style “switched” technology, operators can support “unlimited content” in a smaller swatch of bandwidth, and can use reclaimed bandwidth for other needs, such as DOC SIS 3.1, Nucara said.

He said the same process could also support 4K video services, as MSOs look to take advantage of the new pixel- packed format.

Adara hasn’t broken down the exact costs of its system, but Nucara said a typical deployment requires about half a rack of equipment in the MSO’s headend, plus the new SDV components.

While Adara doesn’t preclude Tier 1s from using the platform, it has been taking hold mostly with small- and mid-tier operators, including Cass Cable of Central Illinois; CCAP in Quebec City and Cable Cable of Ontario, Canada; Cablevision in Warwick, N.Y.; Darien Telephone in Georgia; and Fayetteville Public Utility in Tennessee.

Nucara estimates that more than 75 operators are using Adara’s technology. He also thinks that the switched IP video component will draw the attention of larger, Tier 2 MSOs.