The cable and video category for the Leading Lights covers lots of ground – everything from new video streaming services, encoding technologies and software along with an array of new technologies and products that are driving the next generation of the hybrid fiber coax (HFC) network.
The entries for this year's Most Innovative Cable/Video Product or Service reflected that diversity, as we saw solid submissions across the board, including some advanced video services that have been tailored to fit new 5G networks.
This year, five companies have been shortlisted, with the award going to the company that has developed a potentially market-leading product, application or strategy that has enabled the launch, deployment or creation of innovative, profitable cable, video, TV or multimedia services during the past year.
The five companies in the running are:
- Amdocs – MarketONE
- CommScope – RD1322 2x2 Remote PHY Device
- Promptlink Communications – Network NoiseHawk
- Synamedia – Smart Rate Control
- ZTE – 5G Live TV
The Leading Lights winners, and the identities of this year's Light Reading Hall of Fame inductees, will be announced online, on August 21, during a special video presentation on www.lightreading.com, one month before the start of the Big 5G Event.
Here's a closer look at the companies shortlisted in Most Innovative Cable/Video Product or Service:
Amdocs – MarketONE
After decades of bloated packages featuring hundreds of channels, including some that few consumers even watch, pay-TV has rapidly undergone a massive transformation that is being marked by slimmer bundles of traditional channels that are being enhanced with the tight integration of a multitude of Internet-delivered streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.
Taking aim at this opportunity, Amdocs attempts to reduce some of the complexity and time required for those pay-TV/OTT integrations with MarketONE, a cloud-based, multi-tenant framework/ecosystem. Using MarketONE, service operators can quickly put themselves in a position to develop new, more diverse video bundles that provide increased choice while also helping them create a degree of differentiation in the pay-TV market. MarketONE's integrated partners span 20-plus services, including Netflix, Google Play, Spotify and Quibi, with AT&T and T-Mobile among the service providers already on board with Amdocs's program.
CommScope – RD1322 2x2 Remote PHY Device
Cperators are gradually starting to migrate to a new distributed access architecture (DAA), following years of relatively centralized DOCSIS access networks, marked by purpose-built cable modem termination systems. DAA places more processing power at the edges of the cable access network and puts cable ops in position to move ahead with broader network virtualization initiatives.
But DAA is an evolutionary step that won't be completed overnight, as cable operators are keen to extend the life of their legacy network components even as they embark on this migration. CommScope is targeting the near-term opportunity for DAA with the RD1322 2x2 Remote PHY Device (RPD), a module that supports the company's widely deployed NC4- and OM4-series fiber nodes and, today, supports a 1.2GHz downstream with a wide range of upstream splits (42MHz, 65MHz, 85MHz and 204MHz). The new module is already in trials with multiple service providers, according to the company.
Promptlink Communications – Network NoiseHawk
While cable's upstream was a major focus as cable operators mull their next-gen network plans, the focus on this segment of the cable network has been amplified during a pandemic in which millions of consumers worked from home and caused upstream usage to spike rapidly.
But even in normal times, pinpointing the source of noise in cable's upstream has typically been a manual, time-consuming process, requiring techs to hunt it down. With Network NoiseHawk, Promptlink brings more automation to that process by applying AI and machine learning to network data that, ultimately, helps cable operators zero in on noise and other problems that are impairing the upstream. The end result also provides a more overall accurate view of the network noise situation than what operators can typically obtain using more traditional, manually operated spectrum analyzers, the company claims.
Synamedia – Smart Rate Control
The pandemic has also shined the light brightly on video streaming and network efficiency as consumers hunkered down at home to view on-demand services such as Netflix as well as a mix of over-the-top service that feature live TV feeds.
Synamedia has targeted more bandwidth-efficient live streams with Smart Rate Control, a system that pairs encoding with automation to create video segments that, it claims, are 40% to 50% smaller than those created by constant bit rate encoding platforms. But Synamedia says it's taking things a step further by configuring encoders with AI technology that helps the encoder learn which settings are optimal for specific types of content and achieving the right balance between picture quality and streaming capacity savings. Automating this process and eliminating the need for human intervention results in an extra 10% in bitrate savings, the company claims.
ZTE – 5G Live TV
5G is generally touted as a standard that's positioned to deliver faster wireless speeds and low latencies that support automated cars, but it's also gaining ground as a conduit for advanced live TV applications.
ZTE is approaching that opportunity with 5G Live TV, a system that's been tailored for large-scale events, such as sporting contests, by blending 5G signaling with edge computing/processing and content delivery networking/distribution. In addition to providing the primary live TV feeds, the system is also equipped to provide multiple camera angles (along with "flexible zooming") from the event venue to viewers who are watching on mobile devices and TV screens. Among real-world use cases, ZTE's 5G Live TV service was used last August for coverage of the Second China Youth Games in partnership with Shanxi Mobile.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading