MADISON, Wis.—We all know that cable TV is no longer the only destination for consumers to find video they want to watch. In fact, the proliferation of Internet Protocol-enabled devices—tablets, smartphones, notebook computers and game consoles—is already making a pricey subscription to cable TVs almost unacceptable, if not irrelevant, especially to younger audiences.
A big question is how soon cable operators—currently stuck with MPEG-2/QAM-based head-ends and set-tops–will migrate to an IP-based infrastructure.
The bad news is that it will be “at least 10-15 years before the MPEG-2 digital video switch-off,” estimates Stephen Froehlich, principal analyst at IHS Electronics & Media. If so, cable guys need to find new ways to stay relevant and competitive in the meantime--until they can deliver IP packetized video (instead of MPEG) to any device.
The good news is that several [technology] options—although each with some pros and cons—are available for cable operators to implement IP TV delivery over a hybrid fiber-coaxial plant. More than a few technology companies stand to gain from the transition.
Among them is Zenverge, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based fabless chip company founded by ex-Conexant engineers. The company is raising its profile on the market by offering cable/telco operators a chip capable of quad-stream HD transcoding with what the company claims as the world’s smallest memory footprint. Its quad stream HD transcoder not only “transcode” different audio and video compression formats, but also “transrate” to different bitrates, “transcale” to lower resolution, “transcript” different digital rights management.
Actually, there are a few North American cable companies already offering live broadcast channels and on-demand content via IP connection to devices connected to the DOCSIS network. In what is typically known as an “overlay network,” operators simulcast linear programming over IP and manage video processing separately from content delivered for traditional viewing. The problem with this approach is that none of the cable guys has unlimited amount of unicast bandwidth.
Zenverge comes in under two other scenarios: The first is where content is delivered over the traditional MPEG-2 transport infrastructure and is then encapsulated in IP packets for distribution—wired or wireless—to all devices within the home. The second is a hybrid distribution network, through which most content is delivered over MPEG-2 and encapsulated in IP at the home gateway, while some content, possibly VOD and new high-tier services, is delivered as managed service over DOCSIS.
In either case, Zenverge’s chip offers the ability to “transcode in real time and stream video in a resolution and bitrate each IP-enabled device can support,” explained Amir Mobini, CEO, president and co-founder of Zenverge in an interview with EE Times.