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Three Reasons 2012 Should Be a Good Year for Cable VOD

Author: Bob Scheffler, Director, Next-Generation Video Solutions

With all of the TV Everywhere buzz, it’s easy to let growing levels of cable VOD services slip under the radar. That’s a mistake. Here are three reasons why video-on-demand should have a banner year in 2012.

Narrowcast QAMs are getting cheaper and easier to deploy.

New high-density edge QAMs mean cable operators can implement additional narrowcast video QAMs more cost effectively and in greater quantities than ever before. At the same time, the cost of video QAMs used for VOD and other edge QAM-based services is falling rapidly.  Video QAMs have dropped below the $100-per-downstream level, making it less CAPEX-intensive (from a QAM perspective) to add more VOD channels, and, for the time being, more cost effective than adding Internet capacity to support TV Everywhere services.

Canoe has big plans for VOD ad insertion this year.

According to Vice President Bruce Dilger, two to three cable operators are planning to deploy Canoe’s new platform for dynamic VOD ad insertion this year. Instead of waiting days or weeks to swap out a VOD ad, these operators will be able to switch up content within a 24-hour window, and they’ll be able to target specific audiences based on viewer demographics rather than just geography. The new ad platform means new revenue, and new revenue means more cable VOD growth.

VOD comes in HD.

While TV Everywhere services are multiplying, there is still no guaranteed Quality of Service (QoS) for HD content delivery. Online video is still a best-effort proposition and in some cases it faces downstream constraints found in lower throughput legacy broadband networks.  On the other hand, because VOD is delivered over a managed network, cable operators can ensure the quality of HD content comes through to the intended audience. For the many viewers who want to take advantage of their HD flat-screen TVs, cable VOD will continue to have a leg up over online or over-the-top video for some time to come.


Three Words on the APEX3000 Universal Edge QAM: Density, Redundancy, and Ingest

Author:  Chris Brown, Director of Product Management

As discussed in an earlier post, the new APEX3000 universal edge QAM is designed to bridge the gap between legacy architectures and future CCAP deployments. However, three specific characteristics make this new universal edge QAM extremely valuable for today – whether you have CCAP (Converged Cable Access Platform) on your network roadmap or not.

The ultra high density and ingest capacity of the APEX3000 helps operators save on power and cooling costs, as well as space in the headend. Operators can start with as few as 16 QAM channels per port, and scale up to the full 48 as needed. Greater capacity means a greater ability to meet increasing demand for narrowcast content. Greater density means lower costs even as operators light up more VOD, SDV, and network DVR channels. The APEX3000 is also highly modular, with hot-swappable QAM blades and power supplies, and the flexibility to support different configurations depending on system requirements.

The APEX 3000 is a future proof solution that supports 100% ingest of unicast services today, and this ingest capacity also enables the transition to the all IP-based services of tomorrow.

Redundancy is another big benefit of the APEX3000 including support for both QAM blade and host module redundancy.  Fail-over is automatic so no operator intervention is needed. The APEX3000 also supports two power sources, with the option to configure one for AC power, and one for DC.

Finally, with regards to content ingest, the latest APEX hardware includes twelve 10Gigabit Ethernet ports – eight primary ports, and four back-up ports. This allows operators to ingest enough content to fill every QAM channel with unique, unicast content which is critical for applications like VOD and DVR.

For more information, check out these resources:

Introducing the APEX3000 Universal Edge QAM: 1,536 QAM Channels and a Bridge to CCAP

Author: Chris Brown, Director of Product Management

The SCTE show opens today and news from Motorola Mobility is just rolling in.  Today we’ve launched the APEX3000 Universal Edge QAM. It’s a super-dense chassis with 32 ports and 48 channels per port, supporting 1,536 QAM channels. The APEX3000 is designed not only to meet growing demand for narrowcast video, but also to serve as a bridge product for future rollouts of a Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP).

In an earlier post discussing the concept of a distributed CCAP model, my colleague Jeff Walker wrote about the ability to install a high-density Edge QAM in a cable network today with channels left over for future DOCSIS® data use. The APEX3000 was built with this capacity in mind. Many of our cable operator customers are facing overwhelming demand for more narrowcast channels to support growing VOD libraries and network DVR trials. However, since few are ready to make the jump to CCAP today, there is clear need for a product that can provide more channels now, yet still transition easily to a CCAP architecture later. The APEX3000 does both by offering unprecedented channel density in a 4RU unit, and leaving excess capacity available for a distributed CCAP architecture where DOCSIS channels are transmitted to the APEX chassis and then placed by the APEX into the same RF port along with video QAMs.

The goal with this new Universal Edge QAM is to link legacy architectures with a new converged platform. By doing this, we can help reduce upgrade expenses and support the scale of narrowcast video capacity that cable providers need. It’s a “pay-as-you-grow” QAM model, offering investment protection even as the industry migrates to CCAP for converged video and data delivery.

Motorola will be demonstrating the APEX3000 at SCTE in Atlanta, Booth # 1268. Stop by and visit us.

The Case for Distributed CCAP – High-Density Edge QAMs and the Converged Cable Access Platform

 Author: Jeff Walker, Director of CMTS Product Marketing

While progress continues with the Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP, formerly CMAP and Cesar), there are still many questions surrounding when large scale deployments will begin, and how to continue meeting new bandwidth demands in the present while upgrading IP infrastructure for the future. One of the major debates has been whether operators should move forward with an integrated CCAP architecture, or a modular one. The industry has largely settled on an integrated approach; however, even that decision is complicated by questions around how to deploy an integrated platform.

One of the options for operators to consider is a distributed CCAP deployment. Not to be confused with the modular option, a distributed deployment transmits DOCSIS channels to an external edge QAM via M-CMTS.  A distributed deployment still paves the way for an integrated CCAP architecture, but it also provides flexibility in the migration from traditional data and video infrastructures to the new CCAP model of delivery. Given today’s demand for narrowcast video channels, there is strong incentive for operators to install high-density, chassis-based edge QAMs in select markets. However, operators typically won’t need the full capacity available in these new hardware installations, and with an extra 8-16 QAM channels per port left unused, there is room to reallocate a portion of the total QAMs available to DOCSIS traffic in the future.

This is where the idea of a flexible migration comes into play. For systems that require more narrowcast video channels today, the distributed CCAP approach lets operators target capacity upgrades with new edge QAMs that can still be used in future CCAP upgrades. Those targeted edge QAM deployments allow operators to support more VOD content, a greater number of switched digital video channels, and new network-based DVR trials – all of which have the potential to drive new revenue and keep cable providers ahead of competitive services.

For many cable operators, CCAP will be the next step on the path to all-IP delivery. How the industry gets from here to there, however, will depend on the specific needs of each individual cable system. Taking a distributed CCAP approach to deployments is a logical option in many cases, and one that provides flexibility for meeting today’s needs as well as tomorrow’s.


Cable’s CCAP Future – How and When the Converged Cable Access Platform Will Emerge

Author: Jeff Walker, Director of CMTS Product Marketing

The merging of Comcast’s CMAP blueprint with Time Warner Cable’s CESAR project produced the brand new CCAP concept earlier this year – the Converged Cable Access Platform. The goal of CCAP is to marry edge QAM and CMTS functions in a single system in order to combine resources for video and data delivery. It’s a transition step en route to an all-IP world, but there’s a big question attached. Who, among cable operators, is ready for the CCAP vision?

In the US, everyone we’ve talked to among our cable customers is interested in what CCAP has to offer. The key technical innovation of CCAP is “Direct Digital Synthesis” (DDS), which permits all or almost all downstream channels to a service group to be modulated on a single EQAM port.  DDS does indeed offer potential cost savings by combining EQAM modulation for video and data channels. However, we expect that while some MSOs will move forward with Converged Cable Access Platform trials and deployments, others will defer widespread CCAP deployment until the pace of a transition to all-IP video delivery is more clear. Beyond the technical hurdles, there are serious organizational challenges as well to widespread CCAP deployment. The video and data business units of an MSO traditionally operate very independently of one another. With different established product lines, short-term business objectives, management staff, and more, these two groups do not come together easily.  We believe that a successful CCAP implementation must be economically deployable for either video or data service, and not necessarily depend on aggregating both services for its economic justification.

Also from an organizational perspective, there’s the issue of how the Converged Cable Access Platform can be rolled out across an operator’s entire footprint. Many cable systems are conglomerations of old networks, upgraded infrastructure and acquired assets. In addition, the demands of individual subscriber service groups within cable systems differ based on factors like demographics and geography. For those operators moving forward with CCAP, the transition will have to take place one headend at a time. 

To date, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cox have all publicly signed off on new CableLabs DOCSIS specifications for CCAP. As far as timelines go, we could see the first CCAP trials as early as this year built on interim products now entering the market. Full production environment trials will start in 2012. After that, assuming technical and organizational challenges have been met, deployments will happen at whatever rate capital budgets allow. Increasing demand for VOD services and over-the-top video, which increases the requirement for narrowcast channels, will help to drive MSO capital budget priorities towards a CCAP approach.