DENVER Cable multisystem operators needn't fear the claims of IPTV dominance by telcos, provided they are aggressive in rolling out their own switched digital video plans, cable executives agreed at panels of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers here earlier this week.
Richard Green, president and chief executive of cable consortium CableLabs, said he sees only the Verizon FiOS topology as posing a true threat to hybrid fiber-coax architectures.
"HD channels are the ultimate weapon against IPTV, because most of the PON architectures being talked about right now can't handle multiple HD streams," Green said. "Verizon is the toughest competitor because it duplicates the cable plant."
Geraldine Laybourne, chairman and chief executive of Oxygen Media, said that MSOs shouldn't be too quick to dismiss telco architectures based on passive optical networks that shift to fiber closer to the consumer. Each network can develop unique market models based on available bandwidth, she said, and the availability of IP clipcasts and slivercasts may have unpredictable consequences.
Nevertheless, Jerold Kent, chief executive of Suddenlink Communications, wondered why the merged AT&T and SBC had decided to continue with the Project Lightspeed architecture, based on coarser PON concepts than FiOS.
"Why is Lightspeed going ahead if it can't handle HD sources?" Kent asked. "We must be more judicious and careful in our investments in the cable industry, none of us are the size of an AT&T, so none of us can offer something representing the multibillion-dollar investment of Lightspeed and just say 'Oh well' if it doesn't pan out."
Michael Fries, chief technology officer of Liberty Global Inc., and David Woodle, chairman and chief executive of C-Cor Corp., agreed that the trick is to get residential consumers to exchange twisted-pair copper for coaxial cable. Particularly in new residential homes, Woodle said, there is no justification for multiple physical access media when unified physical links will suffice.
David Fellows, retiring chief technology officer at Comcast Cable Communications Inc., said that switched digital video architectures using MPEG-4 compression represents the optimal network to carry as much HD channels as customers might demand, while preparing for a network shift to 100 percent Internet Protocol. In the short term, however, this means a real pain for MSOs of shifting from 64-QAM to 256-QAM modulation.