Small Ops Should Migrate to IP — Today

For many years, industry experts have
speculated on how to migrate from analog to digital to
IP-based video. As the business continues to evolve,
questions remain, especially for Tier II and III cable operators
anxious to respond to today’s threats.

One of the primary challenges for smaller
operators is that they simply have less room
for error. Unfortunately, there are several
ways to get this transition wrong.

One is to think that all-digital is the endgame.
Some MSOs have spent large sums to
deploy digital terminal adapters. But with
high-definition programming filling up the
reclaimed spectrum, these operators now
must figure out their next move.

Another error is to think that IPTV is the
endgame. Telcos entering the video arena for
the first time could indeed move directly to
full-fledged IPTV, but for those with existing
video businesses, this was never a useful model. It remains
inapt today, even within the context of bonded
DOCSIS channels.

It’s more productive to think of the benefits that IP
can bring to operators and consumers. When allied
with evolving digital video, home networking and consumer-
electronics technologies, these include greater
portability to more end devices; capability for “infinite”
switched-video offerings; advanced search (replacing
“surf”); customizable HD user interfaces (UIs) and
program guides; powerful viewership statistics; wholehome
DVR and 3D HD; service-provider control of overthe-
top content; Web-delivered Java applications; multiple
conditional-access and DRM systems; and support for
multiple codecs, including MPEG-4.

Framed in those terms, migration is a matter of matching
technology with benefits. That opens the door to hybrid
solutions: combinations of IP, MPEG, switched
digital video and DOCSIS technologies.

Here is the critical question, especially for
smaller operators lacking extensive internal
engineering resources: how to leverage the
best of the heavy-lifting carrying capacity of
their existing network and find a more immediate
way to deliver IP services without coming
close to a forklift upgrade.

Large MSOs are custom-building bridges
to an IPTV future that can double the capacity
of today’s four bonded DOCSIS channels. But
even if they expand from eight to 12 channels
further down the road, that is still a far cry from
the amount of effective video capacity that a
service provider has today with the benefit of an existing
technology such as SDV, which a hosting model can bring
within reach of smaller operators.

Forcing the square peg of bandwidth-hungry video down
a round hole of DOCSIS-bonded channels (especially in the
medium term), when there is already a huge pipe available,
makes little sense. The alternative is to leverage the best of
both worlds, and do so now rather than at some point over
the next 10 years.

Joseph Nucara is co-founder and CEO of Adara Technologies,
which provides hosted and managed video
solutions for cable operators.