& 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
"HarmonicGÇÖs 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 GÇô 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, itGÇÖs just that the overall numbers are much lower because MPEG4 is much more efficient.

SD at 2Mbs is a very real option GÇô even for high motion footage.
From The Founder
Download our complete guide to de-risking NFV deployment in 2016, including:
  • An eight-step strategy to deploying NFV safely, based on input from the companies that have already started virtualizing their production networks.
  • Interviews with leading executives at Colt, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Cisco, Nokia, ZTE, Ericsson and Heavy Reading.
  • Flash Poll
    Live Streaming Video
    Prepping for the Future: Upskill U Explained
    During this short kick-off video, Doug Webster, Vice President of Service Provider Marketing, Cisco, and Light Reading’s CEO & Founder Steve Saunders give an overview of Upskill U.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Digital Operation Transformation Roundtable Wrap-Up

    5|6|16   |     |   (0) comments


    Industry leaders at the Digital Operation Transformation Summit give their final thoughts at the roundtable.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Peter Sany on Digital Transformation

    5|6|16   |     |   (0) comments


    Peter Sany gives his view on digital transformation at the DOT Summit in Barcelona.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    James McQuivey on Digital Transformation

    5|6|16   |     |   (0) comments


    James McQuivey gives his view on digital transformation at the DOT Summit in Barcelona.
    LRTV Interviews
    Courting the Apartment Crowd

    5|6|16   |     |   (0) comments


    In this LRTV interview, AT&T's Adrian Cardwell details the changing dynamics of the MDU markets and explains how AT&T is pursuing apartment dwellers with GigaPower.
    LRTV Interviews
    Demand Surges for On-Demand Ads

    5|5|16   |     |   (0) comments


    Ed Knudson, VP, Product and Strategy at Canoe Ventures, discusses the rising appeal of VoD ads and the challenges on inserting ads dynamically in live TV programming.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Exclusive: Video Interview With Sckipio CEO David Baum

    5|5|16   |     |   (0) comments


    At his headquarters in Tel Aviv, G.fast visionary David Baum, CEO of Sckipio, provided an exclusive interview to Light Reading and showed how innovations in rate and reach, vector densities, fast reconnecting times and SFP-based residential gateways are expanding the potential of G.fast.
    Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
    Atrinet's NetACE – Migration to NFV & SDN With NetOps-Driven LSO

    5|4|16   |     |   (0) comments


    At Atrinet's headquarters, Ray Le Maistre sits down with Roy Silon to get an in-depth look into the company's focus and the secret recipe for their success.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Amsterdam ArenA, Powered by Huawei

    5|4|16   |     |   (0) comments


    Huawei's ICT solutions power the state-of-the-art Amsterdam ArenA, turning it into a smart stadium.
    LRTV Interviews
    Testing When There's No 'There' There

    5|4|16   |     |   (1) comment


    The benefits of SDN/NFV are well known, but the transition comes with some challenges, prominent among them is: how do you test a network that has been abstracted and has the potential to be endlessly reconfigurable? Light Reading was at NFV World Congress in Santa Clara, Calif., where we bumped into Mats Nordlund, CEO and co-founder of Netrounds, a Swedish ...
    LRTV Interviews
    Ditching the Slash & the Orchestration Wars

    5|3|16   |     |   (2) comments


    SDN and NFV have been inextricably bound with each other for so long that on a conceptual level, smooshing them together into one catch-all phrase – SDNFV – is now justifiable, according to Dan Pitt, executive director of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF). Light Reading spoke to Pitt at the NFV World Congress, where he explained that the next ...
    LRTV Custom TV
    ZTE TV Connect Highlights

    5|3|16   |     |   (0) comments


    ZTE gives us a tour of its booth and new products at TV Connect in London.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Deluxe's Unified Delivery Solution

    5|3|16   |     |   (0) comments


    Join Alan Breznick of Light Reading and visit the Deluxe booth at NAB! Here you'll find Deluxe's Unified Delivery Solution, OTT video, virtual reality, HDR, 4K and much more!
    Upcoming Live Events
    May 23, 2016, Austin, TX
    May 23, 2016, Austin Convention Center
    May 24-25, 2016, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
    September 13-14, 2016, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
    December 6-8, 2016,
    June 16-18, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
    All Upcoming Live Events
    Infographics
    A new survey conducted by Heavy Reading and TM Forum shows that CSPs around the world see the move to digital operations as a necessary part of their overall virtualization strategies.
    Hot Topics
    Sprint CEO: Our Spectrum Is for 5G
    Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/3/2016
    WiCipedia: 'Meternity,' Lemonade & Chores
    Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, 5/6/2016
    Upskill U Kicks Off IoT Lectures With Ericsson
    Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Editor, 5/4/2016
    Showdown at the OpenStack Corral
    Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 5/3/2016
    Nokia's Motley: Confidence Paves Career Paths
    Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 5/2/2016
    Like Us on Facebook
    Twitter Feed
    BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
    In this latest installment of the CEO Chat series, Craig Labovitz, co-founder and CEO of Deepfield, sits down with Light Reading's Steve Saunders in Light Reading's New York City office to discuss how Deepfield fits in with the big data trend and more.
    Grant van Rooyen, president and CEO of Cologix, sits down with Steve Saunders, founder and CEO of Light Reading, in the vendor's New Jersey facility to offer an inside look at the company's success story and discuss the importance of security in the telecom industry.
    Animals with Phones
    Sloth Mail Click Here
    Sloth mail -- somehow even slower than snail mail.
    Live Digital Audio

    Of all the tech companies in the Valley, Intel has made the most aggressive commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workplace culture. It's doing so by taking concrete, measurable steps, making a large financial investment and through a commitment to complete transparency about its progress. In this radio show, WiC Director Sarah Thomas will be joined by Shlomit Weiss, Intel's Vice President, Data Center Group, and General Manager of Networking Engineering, who will share with us why Intel is tackling this huge challenge, how and to what effect. She will also discuss her unique experiences leading development of Client SOC development in the past and today leading development of all of the chipmaker's silicon hardware for networking IPs and discrete devices and managing a team of 600 engineers across Israel, Europe and the US.