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MSOs Must Bust Out Bandwidth for IP Video Leap

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
3/20/2012
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DENVER -- Cable Next-Gen Broadband Strategies -- Cable's easiest IP video migration path may be the costliest, at least in terms of bandwidth requirements.

If MSOs intend to replicate their entire video service offering in IP and tack on new services like network DVRs, they'll need to set aside 24 to 32 QAM channels (roughly 132MHz to 196MHz of capacity), says Marwan Fawaz, a founding principal of Sarepta Advisors and the former CTO of Charter Communications Inc.



Fawaz, Tuesday's keynoter here, says a full IP simulcast is probably the easiest transition path for cable operators, but acknowledges that the heavy bandwidth requirement might make that approach a non-starter for some MSOs early on. That approach, he notes, will likely require MSOs to reclaim most or all of their analog spectrum and redeploy it for the IP simulcast. (See Comcast Starts to Kiss Analog TV Goodbye.)

And his modeling in that scenario also assumes a 50 percent service penetration that delivers "hundreds" of standard- and high-definition channels, alongside video on demand and perhaps a network DVR service.

For operators that don't expect to have that much capacity available to them soon, he suggests that they could start off in smaller stages, perhaps beginning by moving VoD services and some "niche" networks over to IP and supporting them with hybrid QAM/IP set-tops or gateways. Another transitional option, at least from an in-home multi-screen perspective, is to start using specialized transcoding that can convert QAM video to IP and pass those streams to tablets, PCs and other devices using the home's Wi-Fi network. (See Comcast Beams Live TV to the iPad.)

Fawaz, whose firm advises clients ranging from service providers to private equity and venture capital firms, says cable's IP video migration is inevitable. "It's not a matter of if, but when to make it, and how."

But he admits the migration will take some time, even for the nation's largest MSOs. And that lengthy migration will ensure that older QAM-only set-tops will be sticking around for a while, perhaps for another seven to 10 years.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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