Video services

IPTV Alters Network Landscape

Much attention is being lavished on fiber and DSL buildouts, but the arrival of IPTV is forcing some less visible changes behind the scenes in access networks, according to the latest Heavy Reading report, "IPTV and the Future of Telecom Video Networks."

The aggregation network, including Ethernet boxes and IP routers, has to change to accommodate IPTV, as seen in a number of vendor announcements this year. Perhaps most interesting is that Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) appear "vulnerable" in this area: "There are realistic opportunities here for competitors to win incumbent service provider business," writes Rick Thompson, Heavy Reading senior analyst, in the report.

The report focuses on many aspects of IPTV, including service definitions, software, infrastructure, and the implications for cable multiple service operators (MSOs).

Getting faster connections to end users is the relatively simple part; it's beyond that point that the changes get more involved. "IPTV's more profound infrastructural effect is taking place deeper in the network, at the IP edge/aggregation layer, placing new requirements on Ethernet/IP edge switching and routing equipment," Thompson writes.

Companies large and small have been shifting their edge/access stories to accommodate IPTV. The driving factor is the obvious: TV takes way more bandwidth than Web access -- 15 Mbit/s to 30 Mbit/s per household is a reasonable target, Thompson writes -- and the current slate of equipment isn't necessarily prepared. Juniper took the plunge last week, releasing the E320 router, a souped-up version of its ERX series (see Juniper Aims E-Series at IPTV).

Network operators will need two pieces: an Ethernet aggregation box to collect traffic from DSLAMs, and an IP edge router to aggregate the aggregation boxes. The aggregation box must include some Layer 3 functions, multicast in particular -- it's "not just a dumb Layer 2 switch," Thompson writes. The IP router includes full Layer 3 routing and multicasting, and it's also where the subscriber management will reside.

No one says the two pieces have to be separate, and Thompson notes that a single-tier model, combining Layer 2 aggregation and Layer 3 routing, is possible. That model looks less viable as the size of the network grows, however, so Thompson pictures larger deployments using a multi-tiered approach. Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) is one example, as the company offers its 7450 for Ethernet aggregation and the 7750 for edge routing.

But while Cisco and Juniper might be vulnerable here, the opportunity won't necessarily trickle down to startups, considering the large non-Cisco/Juniper players that are attacking this market. Alcatel recently added multicast to the 7750 to complete its IPTV pitch. And the reborn Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK) is aiming its flagship SmartEdge line at IPTV (see Alcatel Eyes Video Market and Routers Answer IPTV Call).

Then there's ECI Telecom Ltd. (Nasdaq/NM: ECIL), which lists IPTV as one of its motivations for acquiring edge-router startup Laurel Networks Inc. (see ECI to Buy Laurel for $88M). And vendors on the Ethernet side are pumping themselves up for IPTV as well (see Anda Unveils Ethernet Aggregator and Hammerhead Releases Ethernet Suite).

And that's just scratching the surface. Other features coming into play with IPTV include high availability, 10-Gbit/s Ethernet uplinks, and extensive security, particularly to block paralyzing denial-of-service (DOS) attacks, Thompson writes.

"IPTV and the Future of Telecom Video Networks" covers 22 service-level infrastructure players including Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT). The report also discusses network infrastructure vendors including Alcatel, Cisco, ECI, Juniper, Redback, Calix Networks Inc., and Occam Networks Inc. (OTC: OCCM).

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 3:11:16 AM
re: IPTV Alters Network Landscape And the price goes on, up that is.

jonbohmer 12/5/2012 | 3:10:20 AM
re: IPTV Alters Network Landscape All current vendors in the IPTV market - switches, routers, servers, satellite receivers etc. are focused on a monolithic model that has a single, expensive headend and video server park centralized in the network, requiring all video to travel the full extent of the network.

A decentralized model is starting to appear from some alternate IPTV solution companies. Through a dramatic lowering of the cost of both receivers and servers it is now possible to create edge-based complete IPTV headends, which will both lower network traffic dramatically but also put lighter demands on the core routers. Finally, it allows redundancy and load-balancing advantages over the monolithic, single-headend model without sacrificing video quality. On the downside, there is the need to maintain several regional headends which may add some cost but the remote management capabilities in such systems makes this a minimal premium over centralization.

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