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Fragmentation and Flexibility

I spent time at a conference last week where one of the prevailing themes was fragmentation. As much as we talk about convergence (of devices, services, applications), the truth is that end-user experiences are fragmenting. It used to be that many of us watched the same shows on the same types of TV sets, communicated primarily on landline phones, and had some kind of stereo system for listening to music at home. Now the communication and entertainment choices are endless, as are the ways we choose to access them.

From one perspective, this fragmentation means that technology has to be extremely adaptable. Service providers are trying to address a million and one different demands while also finding ways to stay cost efficient. So they’re turning to technology providers to make it possible. Here are just a few examples:

  • The rise of HD is one of the factors leading to adoption of the MPEG-4 AVC compression scheme. However, it will take a good long while before every consumer has a set-top that can accept MPEG-4. The result: new receivers/transcoders that can use both MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 compression.
  • Consumers want more content choice, but bandwidth is not limited. Enter switched digital video. With SDV, operators can switch on specific channels only when they are requested – delivering certain programs when they’re wanted, but saving the bandwidth when they’re not.
  • Demand for higher broadband data rates to support Internet media has led to the introduction of DOCSIS 3.0 channel-bonding technology. But consumer modems won’t transition overnight. So technology in cable modem termination systems has to support not only DOCSIS 3.0, but also legacy DOCSIS 1.X and 2.0 modems.

There are many, many other examples, but the point is that technology is increasingly called on to be more flexible. Convergence=Fragmentation=Flexibility.