Panel: IP Video Poses Problems


Miami— Using Internet protocol to ship video into and around a broadband home may seem like a good idea, but copyright and economic issues still cloud that picture.

At the recent Society of Cable and Telecommunications Engineers' Emerging Technologies conference, a panel delved into the issues that surround a future system of delivering video over a broadband IP connection to the PC or Internet device — and maybe even to the television set.

Video-over-IP completes the triple play of voice, video and data, but video is the trickiest content to fire over the broadband pipe, according to Alan Yates, general manager of Microsoft Corp.'s TV division.

It requires the most bandwidth, he said, and therefore causes the most congestion. Users also demand high picture quality.

Technology, though, is making headway on these problems. For example, the newest video codecs can provide PC-based players with DVD-quality video at 1 megabit per second, depending on the type of content.

In contrast, standard MPEG-2 (Moving Picture Experts Group) delivery offers DVD-quality video at about 4 mbps.

"That is dramatically better content than we have seen in the past," Yates said.

The connection also plays a key role.

Advent Networks technology creates dedicated IP connections to funnel video, similar to a virtual private network connection. With a stable throughput level and quality video, service providers could attract a larger audience while not investing huge amounts of capital in new equipment, according to Ryan Leatherbury, Advent's director of systems architecture.

But that would require a network with greater bandwidth closer to the subscriber, noted Thomas Staniec, vice president of network engineering at Time Warner Cable's technology and data operations.

"In principle, if you are going to try to do it over one channel — or if you are going to take the approach much like Advent — you need to contemplate how you get high capacity very closer to those subscribers, in order to deliver data" and other services, Staniec said.

The idea of offering video at different service levels is an interesting idea for MSOs, and it could be particularly useful in supplementing more mainstream cable offerings with IP video from smaller niche programmers. But content security is still a concern for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification systems, pointed out Tim O'Keefe, vice president of IP technologies for Comcast Corp.

"Regarding DOCSIS security, we learned a lot of lessons," he said. "But if we are going to start putting more and more services on the IP network, the value of stealing that content is going to go up and this will be an important focus area."

But Microsoft's Yates said he was encouraged by recent improvements in digital rights management schemes. But he acknowledged that as yet there is no one DRM system that fits all types of content delivery, and getting all parties involved to agree on one scheme is "a different subject."