IP-Prime Launches HD-4 Service

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SES Americom’s IP-Prime has signed agreements with 12 local telephone companies for its recently deployed HD-4 package of 32 high-definition channels. The operators include the Chibardun Telephone Cooperative in Wisconsin, Home Town Cable in Florida and Manti Telephone in Utah.

The telcos are currently preparing their systems to deploy the HD-4 package, which was launched in April, and will begin offering the additional HD channels to consumers in May and June.

The HD-4 product uses MPEG-4 compression -- designed to conserve bandwidth, it uses around half the space needed for MPEG-2 -- to address the burgeoning demand for HD content.

“When we looked for ways to address the growing demand for high-definition content, we saw that the telcos that had really pioneered IPTV with MPEG-2 content were faced with real capacity issues if they wanted to respond to consumer demand,” said IP-Prime president Bill Squadron.

To overcome that problem, the new HD package allows operators to overlay the HD-4 service that uses MPEG-4 compression and requires much less bandwidth atop their existing MPEG-2 services.

That requires capital investment in MPEG-4 technology in the central office and headend. Telcos also need to provide customers with an MPEG-4 capable set-top box.

But those investments are incremental and don’t require a wholesale transition to MPEG-4 in order to dramatically expand the HD offering, Squadron said. The single-rack HD-4 solution, which can be deployed in less than 60 days, can also be easily be scaled to add more HD programming.

“It is a very easy and high quality solution that can be implemented very quickly, and it is an inexpensive way for telcos to meet subscriber demand for more HD,” Squadron said. “It allows them to manage the transition without having to scrap their entire MPEG-2 investments.”

For the HD-4 product, SES Americom is using Cisco’s D9054 MPEG AVC HD encoders. They are being added to the 300 Cisco standard-definition and HD encoders already in service at IP-Prime’s Broadcast Center in Vernon Valley, N.J.

“When we launched IP-Prime we made a decision to go with the highest quality technology and we felt the Cisco product was the best, though not the least expensive, product on the market. We’ve been very happy with the results,” Squadron said.

Looking forward, Squadron said the company expects to expand the overall channels in the HD-4 package from 32 to 40 by the end of May and to launch a video-on-demand package that will include HD content. Overall, he expects IP-Prime to offer about 100 channels by the first quarter of 2009.

“We see more HD content as an absolutely essential part of our offering,” he said. “We intend IP-Prime to be on the cutting edge of offering as many HD programmers as possible.”

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