& cplSiteName &

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        ADD A COMMENT
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.
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
From The Founder
Cisco's Conrad Clemson, recently promoted to head up the company's Service Provider Apps & Platforms developments, talks to Light Reading's Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about how he's bringing cloud video, mobile and virtualization together to empower network operators.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Documentaries
Twilight Star Authors AI Paper

1|24|17   |   00:46   |   (0) comments


Actress Kristen Stewart, best known for starring in the Twilight movies, has co-authored an academic paper on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in a short film she has directed.
LRTV Documentaries
Apple, Qualcomm Lock Horns Over Licensing

1|24|17   |   01:07   |   (0) comments


Industry giants clash over licensing fees.
LRTV Interviews
Heavy Reading: The Web-Scale View

1|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Rome, Heavy Reading's former chief analyst Patrick Donegan shared insight from the recent web-scale operators report, which featured research on how web-scale operators view the market, the best web-scale companies to ...
LRTV Custom TV
Cisco's Cloud Scale Networking: Automation, Virtualization & Simplification

1|18|17   |     |   (1) comment


Cisco's Sanjeev Mervana outlines the latest innovations in networking technology at CES 2017 in Las Vegas.
LRTV Custom TV
ADVA Talks Innovation & the Future of Networking

1|17|17   |     |   (0) comments


Ray Le Maistre and Christoph Glingener, CTO of ADVA Optical Networking, discuss the current state of the industry, cooperation and collaboration, open innovation and the future of networking.
LRTV Custom TV
Cisco's Infinite Video Platform

1|17|17   |     |   (0) comments


Cisco's Infinite Video Platform allows service providers to deliver broadcast-quality video over IP networks. Infinite video supports many devices, from 4K TVs to tablets to game consoles. Join Cisco's Rajeev Raman for a brief tour and live demo.
LRTV Interviews
Masergy: Ability to Adapt Key for NFV

1|16|17   |   6:40   |   (0) comments


Speaking at Light Reading's 2020 Vision in Rome, Masergy's VP, Global Technology, Ray Watson, said agility is key to providing the mix and match NFV-based services that are driving business for the managed service provider today.
LRTV Interviews
Equinix: The Data Explosion

1|13|17   |   4:16   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision in Rome, Eric Schwartz, president of EMEA, Equinix, talked about how Equinix is helping its customers manage the influx of data today, and how it's preparing for a future filled with millions of connected IoT devices.
LRTV Interviews
Heavy Reading: The Changing Data Center Landscape

1|12|17   |   6:05   |   (1) comment


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision event in Rome, Heavy Reading's Senior Analyst Roz Roseboro talks about how virtualization is impacting data center evolution and how that evolution is affecting the relationship between service providers, data center operators and public cloud providers.
LRTV Interviews
Boingo: Prepping for Millions of Devices

1|12|17   |   5:07   |   (1) comment


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision in Rome, Boingo's CTO Derek Peterson discusses how wireless operators will address the needs of low-bandwidth and high-bandwidth apps at the same time, the need for more MHz, the impact of IoT and more.
LRTV Interviews
Comcast Shows Off Gig Gateway at CES

1|11|17   |     |   (1) comment


With its largest presence at CES in years, Comcast took the wraps off its long-awaited gigabit gateway and a new platform for managing the home WiFi network. Light Reading Senior Editor Mari Silbey sat down with EVP Chris Satchell to discuss the latest Comcast advance, and met with VP of Product Strategy and Development Andrea Peiro to walk through a demo of the ...
LRTV Interviews
Colt: End-to-End Key for 2017

1|10|17   |   6:21   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Rome, Nico Fischbach of Colt said having a multi-carrier, end-to-end service proposition is going to be key for 2017 -- and SD-WAN is instrumental in making it happen.
Upcoming Live Events
March 21-22, 2017, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
May 15-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
A Women in Comms Glossary
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 1/18/2017
Is Cable One Beefing Up for Slaughter?
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 1/20/2017
Google Security Lessons for IT
Curtis Franklin, Security Editor, 1/18/2017
Nokia CTO: 2017 Is the Year 5G Gets in the Field
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 1/19/2017
Do Women-Only Co-Working Spaces Work for Women?
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 1/24/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders chats with Sportlogiq CEO Craig Buntin about sports data analysis.
Eyal Waldman, CEO of Mellanox Technologies, speaks to Steve Saunders, CEO of Light Reading, for an exclusive interview about the 100 GB cable challenge, cybersecurity and much more.
Animals with Phones
You've Heard of Slow Food? Click Here
This is slow tech.
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. Well cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.