Translation Please: The Unstoppable March To IP

Back in the day — meaning last year — cable engineers working on video transport said they were in a luxurious spot when it came to moving digital video.

On the one hand, they reasoned, they had the tried-and-true method they built in the mid-’90s to move linear and on-demand digital video. It’s known as MPEG transport.

On the other hand, they had the broadband IP pipes they built to offer high-speed connections to the Internet, and later, voice, using the DOCSIS and PacketCable specifications.

We have both, the reasoning went. Not one or the other, like many competitors. Both. Whichever way things go, cable’s bases are covered. Luxurious.

Then came the blitz of activity that is digital video wanting to play elsewhere than on the living-room TV. And the related blitz of activity that is the transport of that video, to PCs , laptops, portable players and things other than TVs.

Both blitzes are happening the loudest on the IP side of the house. (Although the MPEG side is in its own state of blitz, with the widgets of EBIF.)

Suddenly that dual-network luxury [MPEG and IP transport] began to feel more like an opex sinkhole. If the end game really is Internet protocol, engineers reason, we better get on it. No sense in supporting two when one is obviously Future.

The engineering work of that — enormous — decision involves finding ways to move today’s linear and on-demand video products off the track they’re on (MPEG) and onto the one called IP. It’s about unbolting the tried-and-true stuff of today’s digital video services and re-bolting it to the broadband gear that does IP transport.

What tried-and-true stuff? Lots of things grew into the digital video platform over the past 12 or so years. Technical problem-solving things, like fixing lip-sync issues. Practical day-to-day things, like recognizing local ad-cue tones, or EBIF triggers.

The crossover to IP transport isn’t imminent, nor is it a flash cut. This is a trickle-in thing — as more IP devices come into a home wanting video, more bandwidth gets cleared to serve them.

It is beginning, though. It’s that eleven letter C-word — convergence — over an 11-year time frame. (Selected because 11 years from now is 2020, which seems a good marker of “Future.” )

Bottom line: This one shows every sign of happening. Get ready.

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