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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.


From CPU to Silicon – Video Transcoding Reaches a Tipping Point

Author: David Hopkins, Director of Product Marketing – Video Processing

In some ways, video transcoding for mobile delivery has grown a lot simpler of late. Thanks to lightweight video wrappers, we don’t need to create as many primary mobile streams as we once did. We can consolidate the heavy lifting part of the transcoding process, and leave the video wrapping to simple servers distributed around the edge of the delivery network. However, this shift in technology means we also need to re-evaluate our video transcoding tools. Instead of a CPU-based system, silicon increasingly makes more sense for the initial video transcoding process. Silicon is less flexible, but more robust than CPU-based transcoding. It’s also more cost-efficient.

To take a step back, video transcoding for mobile delivery has been tricky from the outset. Varying bandwidth limitations, screen resolutions, streaming protocols, and DRM requirements have made it difficult to reach a broad mobile audience with a quality video experience. A content provider might need one or two high-resolution streams, and 20 additional low-res versions just to deliver a single piece of source content to Smartphone and tablet audiences.

However, we are now at a tipping point. Because of new video wrappers, also called containers, we have begun to separate primary transcoding from the lighter-weight process of creating envelopes that make streams readable on different mobile devices. In other words, our one-step transcoding system is evolving into a two-step process. Instead of needing to transcode source video into dozens of different streams, we can now transcode it into only a handful of primary streams, which are then handled by wrappers at the network edge.

Here’s why the change is important. First, silicon can handle higher bit rates than a CPU-based system. As screen resolutions on mobile devices continue to improve, the ability to deliver HD streams grows more important. A CPU-based transcoder won’t be able to keep up. Second, silicon is becoming more cost efficient. As fewer primary streams are needed, silicon-based video transcoding can deliver a lower cost per stream than its CPU counterparts.

As operators look to compete with ­mobile video, they’re also looking for ways to make mobile delivery less expensive. Silicon promises to make video transcoding more efficient, and, in the process, it has the potential to make the mobile business model as a whole a lot easier to sustain.

Visit Motorola Video Infrastructure Solutions

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.

Motorola’s New Suite of Multi-Wavelength Transmitters

Today at the SCTE show, Motorola will introduce a new suite of multi-wavelength transmitters- the GX2-GS1000, GX2-EA1000, and the GX2-DM2000. These products allow operators to further minimize segmentation costs by conserving fiber while providing best in class performance at every price point, for all digital and analog systems. The solutions maximize existing network capacity while also driving advancements for tomorrow’s bandwidth needs.

The GX2-GS1000 transmitters can accommodate up to 16 wavelengths on a single fiber with over 100 kilometers of reach per stream with full QAM loading from 52 to 1003 MHz.  It can handle up to 79 analog channels, full QAM loading and narrowcast QAM loading. The GX2-EA1000 high performance transmitter handles up to 79 Analog channels plus QAM loading as point to point transmitter as well as multi-wavelength transmitter.

The sister product- GX2-DM2000 has enhanced features to allow this product line to scale for the needs of the cable operators.  It manages narrowcast overlay payload with an added capability to broadcast full QAM loading from 52 – 1003 MHz and operates up to 30 analog channels plus QAM loading.

The GX2-DM2000 will be available next month and the others earlier next year. Visit us @ SCTE Booth# 1268

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.