Cable Tech

Digital TV: Who'll Tune In?

VideoTele.com Inc. has upgraded its products to offer carriers more video-over-DSL connections for less bandwidth (see VideoTele Lowers DV Bit Rates).

Like an earlier, similar announcement from SkyStream Networks Inc. (see SkyStream Wants Its IP TV ), VideoTele.com says it can compress video signals so that the limited bandwidth available on copper phone lines is used more efficiently, enabling more channels to be delivered using less bandwidth.

The news raises questions about the status of digital television, which has entered industry lingo without correspondingly penetrating American living rooms. What's the holdup? If TV can be sent over phone lines using this kind of technology, why isn't it offered more widely?

The answer seems to point to the limited bandwidth of DSL and the ongoing telecom downturn. "DSL has bandwidth limitations when it comes to video," says analyst Adi Kishore of Yankee Group. That makes it chiefly of interest to tiny telcos and alternative carriers, particularly outside the U.S., he says.

These service providers don't mind adding something new to their copper connections to enable them to offer a mix of services in relatively small areas. In contrast, RBOCs are focused on big wins. They're not likely to think of investing in their copper networks in an area where an eventual technology overhaul might bring bigger rewards.

That overhaul could be years away, though, considering the current capex doldrums. Meanwhile, companies such as Videotele.com and SkyStream seem content to ride the waves of smaller business, releasing products that work over DSL but can also accommodate fiber and even Ethernet when the time comes.

VideoTele.com, for example, has its gear in use at Chibardun Telephone Cooperative in Wisconsin and in Norway's Telenor ASA (Nasdaq: TELN). It claims its Astria gear is ready to run over fiber and other facilities, not just copper.

SkyStream claims to have customers for video-over-DSL as well, although it can't release their names. "We think timing is the issue for RBOCs," says Bethany Mayer, VP of product marketing at SkyStream. "We're happy to run over copper, fiber, Gigabit Ethernet, ATM, or IP."

Videotele.com and SkyStream are joined by a roster of other vendors, including Harmonic Inc. (which Canadian LECs Sasktel and Alliant Telecom as video-over-DSL customers), Minerva Networks Inc., and Optibase Ltd. (Nasdaq: OBAS), who also see a future in IP TV, albeit one that's still bobbing on the horizon.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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rmabreu 12/4/2012 | 11:31:46 PM
re: Digital TV: Who'll Tune In? For those of you on the tech side of the discussion: yes, it is true that with the current architecture and traffic engineering of the DSLAM/BRAS/ATM/IPCore out there the networks will need massive investment to be able to support the new traffic requirements for VoDSL. And that means capex in time of capex restrictions. The probable thing is that small scale trials with a very limited number of customers start, initially sponsored by vendors, before any aggressive moves on the part of the RBOCs take place. But it will happen sooner or later.

Now, for the interesting discussion on the content side: you're missing the picture when discussing TV over DSL. This is not the market! Why tweak with computer gear and converters to watch the same programming grid you have on cable or dish? (which by the way are much more convenient and already established installed). The point here is NOT DSL TV, but rather the possibility of VOD over DSL. Call it mass customization of the TV programming. Call it the network PVR/DVD with a Blockbuster store attached. Call it video feeds that may interest hundreds of people only, not hundreds of thousands. And call it delivering that old old episode of your favorite sitcom which is not showing even in that great video rental shop on the corner that only rent "difficult" stuff. Hey guys - cut past the obvious techy discussions that look one month to twelve months ahead and look 5 to 10 years instead.
dietaryfiber 12/4/2012 | 9:39:42 PM
re: Digital TV: Who'll Tune In? Have you noted that Next Level Communications is doing $12M/quarter doing video over DSL? They locate the ATU-C remotely, thus extending the reach. NLC is not exactly setting the world on fire, but the independents are starting to roll out. It will be a different situation for the large carriers, but there is an ongoing business in Video over DSL.

dietary fiber
whyiswhy 12/4/2012 | 9:39:42 PM
re: Digital TV: Who'll Tune In? Just think, they can rob all of cables customers within a one mile radius of the CO. Let's see: the value proposition is lower rates than the existing cable? Make that $6.95 per month for all the local channels and CSPAN.

Yumm, tasty returns on dollars invested (not).

That's why all major DSL TV ventures to date are dead.
lightreader 12/4/2012 | 9:39:41 PM
re: Digital TV: Who'll Tune In? DSL TV==Mescherschmitt 262

too little, too late...
[email protected] 12/4/2012 | 9:39:39 PM
re: Digital TV: Who'll Tune In? It doesn't have to be that way. We live more than 22k feet from the local CO and get DSL because they put a remote terminal local to us with the DSLAM and access concentrator in the RT.

Further, VDSL is defined at 52Mbps down / 34Mbps upstream, so it could be done. There have been a few FTTH deployments around the country that could upgrade to VDSL.

I think the main problem is the stop and start nature of FSAN, (full service access network) given the circuit to packet (IP core) single solution the major carriers are looking for and so far no vendor has a complete coherent solution for the entire picture.

All of the system lines I have seen will require complete forklift upgrades well within 3 years so there is no buy in from carriers that I have seen.

But let me caution you unlike many of the people who write into these boards I am not an all knowing all seeing genius.
rjmcmahon 12/4/2012 | 9:39:38 PM
re: Digital TV: Who'll Tune In? This a content problem and not a technology. Look to Intertainer and there recent law suits to understand and realize they have been backed by one of the largest cash war chests on the planet.


Building new muni-nets, separating content and bit distribution system, is the only path forward.
whyiswhy 12/4/2012 | 9:39:37 PM
re: Digital TV: Who'll Tune In? Humm...NLC is HFC done the hard way.

I think there might be some money to be made as a neighborhood (or hotel, or vacation resort, etc) dish-walla for broadband, at least for awhile. NLC might survive serving that market running below the radar. The interesting thing is access to the wires is (my guess) mandated, whereas coax is private.

Long term problem is if they demonstrate a neighborhood is good pickings, the local MSO will invade if they can. Probably with better TV lineup.

On average it is a vanishing market model, just like satellite telephones versus cellular. But niche market has some potential.

[email protected] 12/4/2012 | 9:39:37 PM
re: Digital TV: Who'll Tune In? That is an interesting assertion to me, and I'm sure I don't know exactly why you say that is the case.

I did check out "intertainer" and found one of the technical bit oriented (if you will) requirements was as follows;

"System Requirements:

To watch programs on Intertainer, you must live in the United States, have a broadband connection of at least 580kbps, and have the following: "

So, I know very well that my DSL average badwidth is far below that, in fact, it doesn't even burst that high.

Further, I have worked on a number of designs, trials and post sales support of existing dsl installations, as a system engineer for our client carrier and now defunct CLEC dsl service providers around the country and they all as you may well know band together any number of customer dsl pipes onto an OC-X with the basic carrier formula, 20 to 1 ratio of over subscription, subscribers billed bandwidth to actual planted bandwith.

So this is system is not going to work en mass for video as the dsl technology is now being deployed for its common application, "high speed" home internet data access". Bursty intermittant data traffic.

Hence my view that some of the barriers are still the technology and bit oriented roll out of a technology and implimentation that will suffice.

I'm not sure that when you say building new muni nets you are presuming to address the full service end access issue I mentioned.

I don't think that is the case, high speed muni nets are pretty transparent and independent of this whole issue, providing a video TV/HDTV over dsl to enough end customers to make it economically viable.

Also the big overiding issue for carriers as I understand it to be, is first the widespead adoption of packet over circuits for all carrier services, this means everything from replacing SS7 with a totally integrating multi-domain packet based call and messaging, - in fact all services on an IP Core. Further, getting the high speed end access, suffieient clear channel badwidth is also a requirement.

So my conclusion at this point is, you can build the fastest muni network in the word but with out an IP core and without migrating all services the carrier wants to do first, making everything billable, and preferably to the carrier (key point) none of this is going to happen.

Consider the immediatly preceeding technology roll out example. Carriers were/are already losing income due to voice traffic running over data lines. They were not going to let CLECs take over that market while watching their voice income drop to zero, and while they themselves were FCC mandiated with opening their infrastructure to all sorts of competitors skimming off revenue. DSL is also somewhat errosive of corporate data circuit revenue for carriers.

You might have a content based provider who connects to the carrier as a seperate entity, but I think that model evolves much later in the whole scheme because there is no motivation for the cariers to build the physical infrastructure which will be required, and build it at the lowest possible return on bits carried while not getting revenue from content.
rjmcmahon 12/4/2012 | 9:39:35 PM
re: Digital TV: Who'll Tune In? I don't know exactly why you say that is the case.

It's about money and not technology.

If you look at the legal suit you'll see Intertainer had a 50/50 revenue split where an average rental price is $5. The studios have changed it to 60/40 in their favor and are not really happy with that (they are making $8-$12 per DVD sold). Hence are pushing for all new deals to be 75/25.

Today, 2/3 of the cable companies expenses goes towards buying broadcast rights. And it's getting more expensive, not less. They are being pushed into selling more local ads, which is another shrinking market. (Look at the financials of a TV affilliate to see that)

Anybody enterring this DSL/TV business will have no content. Their programming will be worse than a community access channel. All money spent on DSL/TV technology will be lost. The RBOCs will try to buy any interesting left overs for nothing.

Those that build need to realize it's about a new, agnostic, bit distribution network. Application coupling is fatal flaw in any new model.
BobbyMax 12/4/2012 | 9:39:32 PM
re: Digital TV: Who'll Tune In? The convergence of TV, Video, and Internet over the existing ILEC facilities ( Copper and DSL)is being pursued actively. It is not clear at this time the revenue generation and other regulatory schemes.
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