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CTOs: Get Ready for IP Video

5/18/2010 12:17 PM Eastern

Los Angeles — Cable probably will still
be delivering video to MPEG-2 set-tops in
10 years, but in the meantime, MSOs will
need to quench their customers’ thirst for
IP video, according to a panel of cable chief
technology officers.

“It’s less about IP, and more about satisfying
the growing demand from consumers,”
Comcast CTO Tony Werner said.

The debut of Apple’s iPad last month crystallized
the notion of delivering video to IPbased
devices, Werner added.

“It’s really a great device for video consumption,”
he said. “There’s more video consumed
on iPad than any other device short of the television.
That’s one big piece to solve for.”

The wide-ranging panel last Tuesday at The
Cable Show, “Road Trip: Mapping Cable’s New-
Tech Progression,” was moderated by Multichannel
News
columnist Leslie Ellis.

On the question of IP video services, Time
Warner Cable CTO Michael LaJoie said the idea
is for the MSO to be able to deliver all of its services
to “the broadest panoply of devices.”

“Most of our services go to devices that
are leased,” he said. “What we’d like to have
is have third-party products
connect and authenticate —
it changes the game a lot. It’s
close to becoming a reality.”

Comcast’s Werner said he
believes the cost to deliver an
hour of MPEG-4 video over
an IP network will be the same as the cost
of delivering an hour of MPEG-2 video. “But
that doesn’t mean you’re going to rip out
working gear,” he added. “As long as you’re
delivering what the consumer wants, that’s
the end goal.”

Added Dermot O’Carroll, senior vice president
of access networks at Rogers Cable
Communications: “Our job is to deliver services
to our customers. Our customers are
not going all-IP. We have to continue delivering
services to conventional devices.”

LaJoie agreed that cable operators will not
do a “hard cut” to IP video. “You’ll see MPEG-
2 transport boxes in our network for another
10 years — because they will still work. Some
of our customers don’t want to get connected
to IP … It’s not interesting to them.”

For Suddenlink Communications, the
most logical approach would be a residential
IP gateway that tunes to QAMs
and then outputs IP video to a low-cost
device, CTO Terry Cordova said.

The CTOs discussed a percolating crossoperator
plan to provide peering arrangements
on telephony traffic, in part to reduce
the call-termination costs they pay to telephone
companies.

“We’re going to try to peer in lots of different
ways,” said Scott Hatfield, Cox Communications
chief technology offi cer. But operators
will never drop their local
connections into the public
telephone system — the peering
project is “just a question
of getting efficiencies.”

Werner said that besides
more favorable economics,
having MSOs peer on voice will potentially
result in high-quality services, “especially as
we introduce HD voice.”

The CTOs also provided an update on their
DOCSIS 3.0 rollouts.

Comcast offers DOCSIS 3.0 service to more
than 40 million homes, covering 83% of the
operator’s footprint, Werner said. LaJoie said
Time Warner Cable is “installing nothing but
3.0 gear now,” but he noted that DOCSIS 3.0
has been deployed to about 20% of its existing
footprint.

Comcast is in the process of turning on
higher-speed upstream speeds. Werner said
the MSO has launched upstream channel
bonding with DOCSIS 3.0 in two markets.

“We’ve seen a lot more growth in our
downstream over the last 12 to 24 months
but, that said, we see growth on both up and
down,” he said. “We have tremendous capability
to blast the upstream more if and
where it’s needed.”

September