Charter Eyes ‘Hybrid’ Gateways


Charter Communications anticipates
converting to a full Internet-protocol TV environment
within the next four to six years, and the operator plans
to start testing hybrid IP-enabled gateways later this
year as the key stepping stone to get there.

“Clearly there are some challenges about how we get
to all IP,” Charter vice president of IP architecture and
technology David Colter said. “We’re not really going to
do a forklift upgrade and transition our whole environment
over to IP — that’s just not cost-effective.”

Colter outlined the operator’s strategy on Multichannel
’ May 25 webinar, “Start Your IP Video Engines.”

The first step on the road to IP video was to reclaim bandwidth
capacity to offer more services, using switched digital
video, Colter said. By the end of 2011, Charter’s switched
digital video deployment will be complete, freeing up capacity
to introduce new IP-video services.

Initially Charter will use a hybrid gateway device to introduce
IP video in the home. Th at will include
support for traditional quadrature
amplitude modulation (QAM) video services,
with the ability to transcode the
MPEG video and deliver it in IP format
in the home over either Multimedia over
Coax Alliance (MoCA) or Wi-Fi networks.

Charter plans technology trials of
the home gateways toward the end
of this year, with small field trials to
come in 2012. “We’re really taking
those first steps very aggressively over
the next 24 months,” Colter said.

The hybrid gateway would be equipped with four to six
QAM video tuners and a couple of bonded DOCSIS 3.0
channels, Colter said. What’s important is that the gateway
have the ability to be reconfigured to add more capacity
for IP video in the future, to perhaps as many as eight
bonded DOCSIS channels, he added.

The other intent for the gateway is to be a “transition
point” to introduce a new user interface model and remote
user interface extensions to different devices in the
home, Colter said, “whether that’s game console or an IP
client we would provide … You could foresee a tablet connecting
to a gateway device.”

The HTML5 standard will provide more flexibility to let
Charter introduce a guide across not just its own set-tops but
third-party devices as well. The Web technology will let the
MSO “get to that ‘virtual set-top box,’ if you will,” Colter said.
“Really, we need to do a lot better job on our user interface.”

Colter joined Charter in August 2010, and he noted that the
MSO’s planning to migrate to an all-IP video environment
was already under way.