Light Reading
Harmonic and Tut Systems each claim to be the first to deploy working MPEG-4 streams in telco TV networks

HDTV Pushes Telcos Toward MPEG-4

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
6/24/2005
50%
50%

Driven mainly by a need to cost-effectively deliver high-definition (HD) television, many telco TV providers are now preparing to use the more cost-efficient MPEG-4 video compression standard.

Tut Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: TUTS) and Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) each claim the first working deployments of the advanced codec, but if industry sources are correct they will soon be in good company (see Tut Deploys MPEG-4 Headend and VNL Doubles Speeds).

The MPEG-2 compression standard is widely used and works very well for standard definition (SD) television. But many, if not most, telco TV players find themselves playing in markets where they must win over cable and satellite subscribers who have come to expect at least two high-definition channels. So they too must deliver the HD channels, which of course require much higher bit rates.

For those carriers that don’t yet have fiber-to-the-premises access, advanced compression standards like MPEG-4 are seen as the only business case-friendly way of delivering HD, vendor sources say.

Tut Systems says it has deployed the first MPEG-4 headend in North America at Farmers Telephone Cooperative, a 60,000-subscriber operator in South Carolina. Farmers’ IPTV service is not available commercially yet, Tut officials say, but the telco is already streaming a “limited number of channels” in MPEG-4 to "a limited number of people.”

“They are surprised at the results; and the quality and bit rates that they’re seeing [are] pretty impressive,” says Tut’s VP of marketing Craig Bender.

But Bender says the work doesn’t end even when Farmers’ commercial deployment begins. “It’s going to take a few years to use and tune all the tools in MPEG-4 to get the best bit rate and all the improved quality that you can get with it.”

MPEG-4 video streams require about half the bit rate of MPEG-2 streams yet deliver comparable picture quality. To deliver two HD channels via MPEG-2 requires a bit rate of 16 to 18 Mbit/s, while the same two channels would use only 6 to 8 Mbit/s using MPEG-4 compression.

Harmonic also claims to have the first encoder streaming MPEG-4 in the real world. The company’s director of telco solutions Thierry Fautier says Video Networks Ltd. (VNL) began streaming Turner’s Toonami channel (featuring the hit shows Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball GT) in MPEG-4 to subscribers in suburban London April 18.

“We... are creating a world first with the first ever broadcast channel to switch to MPEG-4/AVC encoding,” says the operator’s CEO Roger Lynch in a statement released by VNL.

Harmonic’s Fautier says VNL is working toward the complete conversion of its 80-plus channels to MPEG-4 by the end of this month.

Harmonic is a Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) partner, so its encoders support Microsoft TV’s preferred codec, Windows Media 9 (see Microsoft, Harmonic Team for IPTV). But so far, encoder vendors report a clear preference among North American telcos for the MPEG-4 codec. In fact Alcatel America (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) CTO Kenny Frank told Light Reading that Microsoft TV customer SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC) doesn't plan to use Windows Media 9 in its IPTV network, preferring MPEG-4 instead (see Alcatel & Microsoft Going Steady). European operators, sources say, are split evenly between MPEG-4 and Windows Media 9 (see Europe Tunes In to IPTV).

And there are other encoder vendors just a step or two behind Tut and Harmonic in deploying MPEG-4 encoders.

“We’re shipping them as we speak,” says SkyStream Networks Inc. CEO Jim Olson. The encoders, Olson believes, will begin streaming MPEG-4 in the networks of several Tier 2 carriers beginning next quarter (see SkyStream Wins IPTV Deals and Progressive Picks SkyStream for IPTV). Olsen says virtually every telco that is doing video is now actively looking at adopting the MPEG-4 codec.

Tandberg Television says it is now shipping MPEG-4 encoders to one European telco, which Tandberg says wants to remain anonymous. Tandberg marketing director Lisa Hobbs isn’t sure if the carrier is actually deploying the MPEG-4 encoders yet (see Tandberg Talks Up IPTV).

Many in the industry expected the move to MPEG-4 to happen much sooner than it actually is (see Conexant, Tandberg Demo MPEG-4). But that movement has been slowed considerably because the set-top boxes needed to decode the MPEG-4 HD are largely unavailable.

The problem is the chipsets that go in the set-top boxes. Sources say set-top box manufacturers are only now beginning to take shipment on the chipsets needed for their new MPEG-4, HD-ready set-top boxes (see Broadcom Demos HDTV Over ADSL2+).

Harmonic’s Fautier says his company has deployed MPEG-4 encoders at several of its carrier customers, but the absence of the souped-up set-top boxes is preventing conversion to the advanced codec.

Light Reading has heard varying explanations for the delayed chipsets. Fautier believes chipmakers like STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE: STM), Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), and Conexant Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CNXT) have needed more time than expected to “work the bugs out” of the chips.

Entone Technologies Inc. co-founder Mark Evensen believes the delays have been caused by the chipmakers taking a pragmatic approach to telco TV in general. He explains that the chipmakers have so far been unwilling to alter production schedules to accommodate the set-top box makers because of a reticence about the sustainability of the demand.

Whatever the real cause, the slow delivery of the chipsets is having its consequences. Sources say it’s another reason IPTV deployment targets at places like SBC and Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) are being pushed back (see SBC, Microsoft Defend Lightspeed and Swisscom IPTV Stall Sends Shivers).

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Stevery
50%
50%
Stevery,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:09:24 AM
re: HDTV Pushes Telcos Toward MPEG-4
Can I assume that MPEG4 requires 4 times the chipset capacity for MPEG2?

Nope.
mrcasual
50%
50%
mrcasual,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:09:24 AM
re: HDTV Pushes Telcos Toward MPEG-4
The amount of motion in the material being encoded is always a problem.

MPEG-2, which is pretty long in the tooth now, can really only address this with higher encoded data rates, which is not a good solution.

MPEG-4 and other new codecs handle motion better, i.e. better resolution at a given bitrate or equal resolution at a lower bitrate, in the way the encoding algorithm is designed. The algorithms are inherently more complicated than MPEG-2 but are really a non-issue when it comes to silicon area.

MPEG-4 (or equivalent) decoders now run at HD resolutions quite easily in S/W on today's PCs. Encoding realtim in S/W is not possible for HD (or probably even SD) but the silicon is pretty straightforward.
OldPOTS
50%
50%
OldPOTS,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:09:24 AM
re: HDTV Pushes Telcos Toward MPEG-4
"HarmonicGs Fautier says his company has deployed MPEG-4 encoders at several of its carrier customers, but the absence of the souped-up set-top boxes is preventing conversion to the advanced codec."

Can I assume that MPEG4 requires 4 times the chipset capacity for MPEG2?

I know from testing with MPEG2 that the Bandwidth Required changes significantly based on content (sports vs news). Anyone know if this is true for MPEG4?

OldPOTS
keith.v.smith
50%
50%
keith.v.smith,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:09:15 AM
re: HDTV Pushes Telcos Toward MPEG-4
As with MPEG2, all the grunt work in MPEG4 happens at encoding time, decoding is relatively light G although post processing (such as de-blocking) can bump things up a bit.

However, as MPEG4 is still a motion based codec your sports vs. news observation is still correct, itGs just that the overall numbers are much lower because MPEG4 is much more efficient.

SD at 2Mbs is a very real option G even for high motion footage.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Custom TV
Using Service Quality to Drive WiFi Monetization

10|22|14   |   6:51   |   (0) comments


Live from the SCTE conference: Heavy Reading's Alan Breznick explores the forces shaping the WiFi opportunity in an interview with CableLabs' Justin Colwell and Amdocs' Ken Roulier.
LRTV Custom TV
Distributed Access Architectures – 2

10|21|14   |   8:51:00 AM   |   (0) comments


ARRIS CTO Network Solutions Tom Cloonan discusses why many if not most MSOs will continue with integrated CCAP, while addressing why some are also looking at two futuristic, distributed access architectures: Remote PHY and Remote CCAP.
LRTV Custom TV
Distributed Access Architectures – 1

10|21|14   |   9:01   |   (0) comments


SCTE Sr. Director of Engineering Dean Stoneback discusses the pros and cons of distributed access architecture (DAA) and its various forms, which range from basic Remote PHY to full CMTS functionality in the node.
LRTV Custom TV
The WiFi Road to Riches – 2

10|21|14   |   3:58   |   (0) comments


ARRIS Senior Solution Architect Eli Baruch talks about how MSOs can enable public and community WiFi through 1) outdoor access points, 2) businesses seeking to offer WiFi to customers, and 3) residential WiFi gateway extensions.
LRTV Custom TV
The WiFi Road to Riches – 1

10|21|14   |   10:15   |   (0) comments


SCTE Director of Advanced Technologies Steve Harris discusses WiFi deployments, drivers, challenges and advances, including 802.11ac, carrier-grade WiFi, community WiFi, Hotspot 2.0, Passpoint, WiFi-First and voice-over-WiFi.
LRTV Custom TV
Advantech Accelerates 100G Traffic Handling

10|17|14   |   7:56   |   (0) comments


Paul Stevens from Advantech explains why handling 100GbE needs a whole new platform design approach and how Advantech is addressing the needs of equipment providers and carriers to give them the flexibility and performance they will need for SDN and NFV deployment.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Holland's Imtech Traffic & Infra Discusses Huawei's ICT Solution and Services

10|16|14   |   4:49   |   (0) comments


Dimitry Theebe is from the business unit at Imtech Traffic & Infra which delivers communications solutions for transportations. His partnershp with Huawei began about a years ago. In this video, Theebe speaks more about this partnership and what he hopes to accomplish with Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Comprehensive Storage Solutions Vital for SVR

10|16|14   |   6:16   |   (0) comments


SVR Information Technology provides cloud services for academic and special sectors. With Huawei's support, SVR and Yildiz Technical University has established Turkey's largest and most advanced High Performance Computing system. CSO Ismail Cem Aslan talks about what he hopes Huawei's OceanStor storage system will bring for him.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Mexico's Servitron's Impression of Huawei at CCW 2014

10|16|14   |   6:35   |   (0) comments


Servitron is a network operator in Mexico that has been in the trunking industry for the past 20 years. Its COO, Ing. Ragnar Trillo O., explains at Critical Communications World 2014 that his company has been interested in the long-term evolution of LTE technology and its adoption for TETRA.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Building a Better Dubai

10|16|14   |   2:06   |   (0) comments


Abdulla Ahmed Al Falasi is the director of commercial affairs, a telecommunications coordinator for the government of Dubai. Their areas of service span across multiple industries, including police, safety, shopping malls and more. In this video, Abdulla talks about his department's work with Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Lights Up Malaysia Partner Maju Nusa

10|16|14   |   1:59   |   (0) comments


Malaysia's Maju Nusa is an enterprise partner to Huawei in networking, route switches and telco equipment. At this year's Critical Communications World in Singapore, CTO Pushpender Singh talks about what Huawei's eLTE solutions mean to his company and for Malaysia.
LRTV Custom TV
Evolving From HFC to FTTH Networks

10|15|14   |   2:19   |   (0) comments


Cisco's Todd McCrum delves into the future of cable's HFC plant, examining how DOCSIS 3.1 and advanced video compression will extend its life and how the IP video transition will usher in GPON and EPON over FTTH.
Upcoming Live Events
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
WhoIsHostingThis.com presents six of the world's most extreme WiFi hotspots, enabling the most epic selfies you can imagine.
Hot Topics
Analysts Warn of Major NFV Gaps
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 10/22/2014
Is Health the Killer App for the IoT?
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 10/22/2014
Drones Hover Over the IoT Sector
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 10/23/2014
The Human Gain of the Smart Home
Robin Mersh, 10/20/2014
Zayo Zooms Out of the IPO Gate
Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, 10/17/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed