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Network DVR on the Horizon – Who, When and Why

Author: Bob Scheffler, Director, Next-Generation Video Solutions

Network-based DVR has been years in the making, but cable companies are pursuing the technology with renewed momentum in the wake of Cablevision’s legal successes. After protracted battles in court, Cablevision launched its Remote Storage DVR (RS-DVR) service earlier this year, and now others are taking a closer look. In discussions with our own cable customers, we’ve seen interest in network DVR (nDVR) services spike recently, and more operators are now putting nDVR contracts out for bid. Comcast even went on the record in June saying that it will begin testing a network-based DVR service later this year or early next.

If the timeline for network DVR rollouts is interesting, so, too is the reason why cable companies are moving in the direction of cloud-based television. It’s not because they want to save on storage, but rather because they want an easier way to enable multi-device access. TV Everywhere initiatives marked the start of cable multi-screen delivery services, but the idea of giving consumers access to the content they record and not just content that’s available online is much more compelling. For consumers, network DVR with multi-screen access brings control and personalization. For operators, it offers a way to increase the value of bundled TV services, particularly as more online video content moves behind pay walls and can’t be accessed easily or quickly without authentication.

The network DVR timeline for most US cable operators reaches out 18 to 24 months from now, which means by the end of 2012 we should see numerous trials and regional service launches. DVR service will start to look a lot more like video on-demand, but it will also include more control and flexibility, not to mention new revenue opportunities for cable operators, and a boost in competitive advantage in the fracturing television market.

Belgians Enjoy Greater Entertainment & Home Security Capabilities with IPv6

Motorola Mobility and Telenet, a leading provider of media and telecommunication services in Belgium, have combined forces to offer consumers greater entertainment and home security capabilities. 

With their advancement to IPv6 features using Motorola’s technology and Telenet’s network, operators can offer expanded IP services to a growing number of consumer devices including smartphones, tablets; Internet-enabled gaming consoles and TVs, and home security and monitoring applications.  Consumers can now lock their front door from a smartphone, or enjoy expanded entertainment options on a tablet.   As IPv4 addresses are quickly running out it is important for operators to be able to implement IPv6 to expand their IP services capabilities.

Specifically, Motorola and Telenet have successfully tested and evaluated the first phase of the IPv6 features of Motorola’s BSR 64000 Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS).  The tests demonstrated the IPv6 capabilities of the Motorola BSR 64000, which allows Telenet to deliver its residential broadband and video services across Belgium.  Check out some of the coverage from our announcement to learn more!

Cable Looks to Double Down on DOCSIS Data Channels in 2012

Author: Jeff Walker, Director, CMTS Product Marketing

The days of cable operators dedicating only one channel to DOCSIS data traffic are behind us. In 2011, a typical MSO is using four to six 6MHz channels for subscriber data connections. In 2012, Motorola predicts that range will double, with operators using eight to twelve channels for DOCSIS traffic alone.

The change is a direct result of growing consumer demand for Internet services. Downstream traffic is skyrocketing at a rate of roughly 50 percent a year, thanks in large part to streaming video on the web. Upstream traffic is only growing at a rate of 20 to 30 percent annually, but that could, and probably will change drastically as consumers adopt new video chat features through social networking platforms.

MSOs are raising their numbers of DOCSIS channels to handle both the overall increase in broadband capacity needed, and consumer demands for greater speed. Downstream channel bonding is now in widespread use across the country, and while many operators are only bonding two or three channels at a time today, that number will continue to grow in response to increasing speed requirements. Upstream channel bonding is not far behind.

So what does all of this data traffic mean for cable video? Cable operators are still reallocating spectrum that was formerly used for analog video, but it’s not all going over to DOCSIS delivery. Far from it. MSOs are using roughly eight channels for narrowcast video-on-demand streaming today, and in 2012 we’re seeing indications that operators will use anywhere from eight to 16 channels for VOD. That’s due in part to growing VOD catalogs, and in part to new experiments with network-based DVR delivery. In short, there’s growth happening in every direction, and it’s all fueled by insatiable consumer demand for entertainment and communication across multiple platforms.

Top 5 Tech Articles You Might Have Missed: Week of August 1

Change is happening whether you like it or not. The TV industry has begun following in the footsteps of newspapers and magazines, establishing internet paywalls and signifying the end of free online content. FierceIPTV reports that TV Everywhere is readying us for the “evolution” of the way we consume content and predicts that devices will become faster, TVs will become smarter and networks will become stronger to sustain these inevitable changes. Our homes are changing too; Fox News anticipates motion-sensing technologies and aggregated control panels in the future smart house. What do you foresee in the “Home of the Future?”

1. The end of free looms for Internet TV (Aug. 1, 2011) – By Dan O’Shea, FierceCable: Content paywalls work if your content is interesting enough. Fox has the right idea in creating a paywall for TV content that it previously had made available for free online.

2. Sustaining TVE and the evolution of video (Aug. 2, 2011) – By Andy Beach, FierceIPTV: TV Throughout the industry, companies are rushing to provide TV Everywhere (TVE) capabilities for consumers.

3. TV Everywhere is the new DRM (Aug. 3, 2011) – By Janko Roettgers, GigaOm: Missed yesterday’s Welcome to the new world of TV Everywhere, where TV watching is as complicated as online banking.

4. Mobile video viewers stay close to home, study finds (Aug. 2, 2011) – By Dan O’Shea, FierceCable: Nielsen reports that most usage of video apps on mobile devices actually is occurring in the home, rather than when users are on the go.

5. The Home of the Future Is Almost Here (Aug. 3, 2011) – By Adam Verwymeren, Fox News: The future was supposed to be here by now. So why has it taken so long for the home to be truly transformed by tech?

Image courtesy of Fox News

Dealing with the Cable Bandwidth Crunch, Strategies Differ

Author: Phil Miguelez, Director, Access Network Architecture

The growth in demand for unicast services—high-speed Internet and VOD—is both a gift and curse for cable operators. More demand means more opportunity for revenue, but it also means more strain on cable networks. Across the board, North American MSOs see downstream bandwidth running out in the next one to two years if no action is taken. That’s right, not running low, but running out. Of course operators won’t actually let that happen, but the pressure to upgrade networks is real, and strategies for dealing with the bandwidth crunch vary from system to system.

Analog is a bandwidth hog, and the decision to keep analog channels going exacts a price on the operator’s network. Comcast has made headlines with its transition to all-digital cable delivery to free up analog bandwidth, and the operator expects to complete the process nationwide by the end of the year. Part of Comcast’s motivation is the fact that it’s maintained a mostly 750 MHz cable plant. At the other end of the spectrum, Cox upgraded to 1 GHz years ago and has thereby been able to hold onto its analog channels, a competitive strategy designed to lure those subscribers who still own several analog TV sets. The recent introduction of new high-power RF hybrids are making the idea of a network upgrade to 1 GHz much more attractive by virtually eliminating amplifier moves and re-spacing. 

Time Warner Cable is somewhere in the middle between Comcast and Cox. With an 870 MHz plant, Time Warner has relied primarily on switched digital video to cut its bandwidth demand. Its transition to an all-digital network is on a much slower pace than Comcast, but with SDV, Time Warner can save bandwidth by keeping select channels switched off when they’re not in use. Charter’s following an SDV path too. It started an aggressive rollout of the technology last year.

Across all MSOs, node splits are still a favored method of increasing bandwidth to individual subscriber service groups, and splits will continue in the future as a normal course of business. However, operators will also keep looking for new methods to reduce the bandwidth crunch; methods that don’t strain their budgets. For that, new ways of thinking and new technology innovations are in order. Because downstream bandwidth demand is going nowhere but up.