Several cable head honchos got together this morning for the SCTE opening session moderated by Leslie Ellis. The panel included Charter CTO Marwan Fawaz, CableLabs CEO Paul Liao, Rogers engineering SVP Dermot J.A. O’Carroll, and Bresnan VP Pragash Pillai. Among the topics discussed, IP delivery was the headliner. How do you reconcile Tru2way and IP? Why go IP? And how do you do IP in the home? It was a reasonably frank discussion and certainly a lot different than anything I heard a year ago.
The question of cable IP video delivery is both about transport efficiency and access to new devices. The panelists all agreed that IP delivery will likely make cable systems more efficient, but the Rogers SVP O’Carroll laid it on the line by saying that’s not the reason cable companies are looking at IP. It’s the reach of IP that makes it appealing to operators.
So what about Tru2way? The major MSOs in the US have committed to Tru2way, and Comcast recently announced that it expects to have its entire network Tru2way-compatible by the end of this year. But not everyone is so enthusiastic. There’s no mandate saying operators have to go forward with Tru2way, and O’Carroll at least made it clear that Rogers hasn’t made its decision yet. Charter’s Fawaz meanwhile suggested that while his company has committed to Tru2way, he doesn’t see it as an either/or proposition. Charter may still add Web-based technology into the equation. For his part, Paul Liao from CableLabs believes the advantages from Tru2way are so substantial that we’ll see a lot of deployments. And he does have a point. For example, there really aren’t open standards yet for Web-based interactive TV.
As far as IP delivery in the home goes, Marwan Fawaz talked about several options. Providers can use a transport gateway solution like the one Motorola has introduced, they can use a centralized storage device in the home that sends out video streams to local set-tops, or they can push the heavy lifting back into the network and use thin clients at the household level. According to Fawaz, all of these options are viable, and the issue is one cable operators are still researching now.
What’s most interesting to me is just how far this discussion has come in a short twelve months. Last year the conversation was almost entirely about Tru2way and EBIF. Here’s welcoming IP to the cable party.