Carriers Claim IPTV Wiring Worries

After IPTV networks are built and a subscriber signs up, the carrier can breathe easy, right? Maybe not. U.S. carriers say one of the biggest IPTV challenges they face is making IPTV service available on all the TVs in a household (see NAB2005: Telco Video Bingo).

The IPTV signal typically enters the household via an Ethernet connection to an ADSL modem, which connects to a set-top box, which plugs into the TV (see Scientific-Atlanta Wins $195M SBC Deal). But U.S. households typically have two or three televisions and the various costs of running new CAT-5 cable to those additional sets are substantial.

“It’s what I call the dirty little secret of IPTV,” says Entone Technologies Inc. CEO Steve McCay. “The huge issue today is that it’s one thing to get the signal to one TV, but what if you have four or five TVs in the home?” (See BNS Expands With Entone IPTV .)

To get the IPTV signal from the main TV to sets in the bedrooms costs about $800, according to some accounts of carriers delivering IPTV today. Here’s how it breaks down: two additional set-top boxes at $150 each, new CAT-5 cabling at $50, approximately eight hours of skilled installation at $50 per hour, and a “windshield cost” (gas and depreciation on the service vehicle) of $50.

“We do truck rolls where I was hoping they would do the installation in 2 hours and they are there for 6 hours,” says Bill DeMuth, CTO of SureWest Communications (Nasdaq: SURW), which has offered IPTV service since 2002 (see IPTV Scramble Is On). “This is our biggest problem.”

So who pays for such a big headache? Coaxsys Inc. director of marketing Ted Archer says that IPTV operators all have different ways of dealing with the costs.

Some will offer limited or no inside wiring to go along with an IPTV installation, Archer says. But he maintains that carriers really aren't in a position to demand a big upfront fee from their customers.

“From the customer’s prospective, if you look at them and say 'I’m going to charge you $350 in installation charges,' they’ll just stay with their cable service,” Archer says.

Satellite providers offer prospective customers two rooms of free installation to move from cable to satellite. Add that to the free months of service often included in the deal, and you arrive at an average customer acquisition cost of around $700, cable industry researchers say.

Adding to the telecom carrier stakes is the fact that once a carrier wires a new subscriber's home, it loses that investment if the subscriber cancels their service, because the wiring can't be taken back.

While carriers are figuring out this quagmire, several equipment vendors are stepping in with suggested solutions. Coaxsys, Entone, and a few other companies market devices that allow the IPTV signal to travel over existing coaxial cable to the other TVs in the home.

San Mateo, Calif.-based Entone makes a gateway device, called Hydra, which terminates a single Ethernet connection and sends the IPTV signal over coax to each TV in the house, eliminating the need for separate set-top boxes, McCay says.

Coaxsys uses a slightly different approach (see Consolidated Uses Coaxsys for IPTV). Its device, called TVNet, creates an in-home IP network that utilizes coax to link to each set-top box in the house, and can support other IP devices such as digital video recorders (DVRs) and gaming devices in other parts of the home.

The set-top box makers are also getting into the act. Amino Technologies plc and ReadyLinks Inc. have teamed up to develop a HPNA adapter called the ReadyLinks SmartFoot that links Amino set-top boxes to the others in the home using coax or telephone wiring.

The solution to the home wiring problem could eventually be a wireless one. Wireless chipmaker Airgo Networks Inc. has developed a high-bandwidth chip utilizing the 802.11n standard, which, when baked into set-top boxes, will allow wireless communication among all IP-speaking devices in the household, says Airgo spokesman Joe Volat.

In the U.S., the only IPTV installations being deployed so far are by small, regional telephone companies. But larger carriers, such as SBC, are aware of the problem and will have to figure out a way around it soon enough (see SBC Touts IPTV Servicesand SBC: IPTV's Day Has Come).

The only thing that's clear at this point is that no standard way of handling home wiring exists. “Some telcos are saying ‘we’ll give you one TV,’ or they’re saying ‘we’ll give you two TVs but we’re not going to put the wiring inside your house,’ while others are saying ‘we’re just going to take the time and wire all the rooms and just get it done,’” Coaxsys's Archer says.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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RTL Rules 12/5/2012 | 3:15:48 AM
re: Carriers Claim IPTV Wiring Worries Sorry for an OT question, but what does the phrase "baked into" mean?

Is it actually referring to a process, like a scheme to integrate the 802.11 antenna into a housing, or is it just a way to say "designed into".

Sorry, just feeling old today...

(not my initials! Resistor Transistor Logic...)
2bits 12/5/2012 | 3:15:42 AM
re: Carriers Claim IPTV Wiring Worries Why are installers spending up to 8 hours wiring houses with cat 5 cabling to support IP-TV?

802.11g has a maximum throughput of 54Mbps. If (lets say) 2/3 of that is the average working bandwidth, then we have 36Mbps available. Isn't that sufficient for video?
DanJones 12/5/2012 | 3:15:35 AM
re: Carriers Claim IPTV Wiring Worries Indeed, wireless seems to be the only way that seems to make economic sense.

"802.11g has a maximum throughput of 54Mbps. If (lets say) 2/3 of that is the average working bandwidth, then we have 36Mbps available. Isn't that sufficient for video?"

This should be enough yes, but there could be intereference problems as g kit runs over 2.4GHz unlicensed band. It will depend how much other equipment you and your neighbours have running in the 2.4GHz band (This could include access points, cordless phones, wireless video cameras, baby monitors...).

This is part of the reason some manufacturers are looking at 5GHz 802.11a. More channels, less traffic.

TelecomTech 12/5/2012 | 3:15:34 AM
re: Carriers Claim IPTV Wiring Worries 802.11g is absolutely not sufficient to support to video. That 54Mbps is not guaranteed that is optimal conditions i.e. right next to the wireless access point. The 54Mbps rate drops significantly every foot. Start adding walls, addition levels, and other wireless traffic that rate drops further. Also, with video one cannot have the packet loss that occurs with any of the available wireless technologies. Video needs guaranteed speed. When one currently accesses the internet via wireless, dropping packets is okay/somewhat acceptable; can you image that while watching TV??? For example, look at what happens when satellite signals pixelate and how annoying that is; now image it much, much worseGǪthat is video on current wireless technology. Furthermore, what about multiple video streams? Add another TV into the situation and well you get the point.

Maybe future wireless technology such as UWB (UltraWideband) can handle video but thatGÇÖs still realistically 5 years way for consumers.

Additionally, the coax wiring could serve as a wireless GÇ£backboneGÇ¥ enabling multiple wireless access points through out the home. This would help improve wireless access in the home.
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:15:34 AM
re: Carriers Claim IPTV Wiring Worries Indeed, wireless seems to be the only way that seems to make economic sense.

Some anecdotal data.

When we owned a TIVO and wanted to watch a show on other TVs in the house, we found the easiest way was via the existing cable plant. We bought an RF Modulator for a few hundred dollars and connected it to the in home COAX. The DVD, VCR and TIVO were all connected to the modulator. It worked fine even with the devices were attached to a leaf node of the cable plant. (We did put a low pass filter on the outside of the house filtering the signals used by the modulator.) The only problem was the lack of a remote control, which didn't really matter too much.


My take home is that a way to connect video signals to the TV, besides a DVD, is using the existing cable plant.

It's worth noting that my kids don't really use this anymore and don't watch TV either. They choose the computer and it's interactivity, or better, they like it when we read books or play games together. Most channel offerings distributed by the cable operators just don't compete with the offerings found on the internet (nor with family time.)
tonyz 12/5/2012 | 3:15:30 AM
re: Carriers Claim IPTV Wiring Worries I don't believe any 802.11 technology will help here. Even with MAC, PHY and antenna enhancements, you're simply not going to be able to support a requirement for two HD streams to anywhere in 99% of random home samples.

For reasons of interference, lack of QoS regime amongst you and your neighbors eqpt, lack of range due to wall materials, etc... the list goes on for ever.

The final solution for video distribution in the home will be wired, and it will be either powerline or Ethernet or coax or HPNA, but it will be a wired solution, esp if 802.11 based technologies are the competing approach.

But I'll probably end up being proved wrong by some future tweaks of 802.11.
issey 12/5/2012 | 3:15:29 AM
re: Carriers Claim IPTV Wiring Worries How about 802.11n ??
tonyz 12/5/2012 | 3:15:26 AM
re: Carriers Claim IPTV Wiring Worries 802.11n? I am guessing of course, but .n will help some of the home locations in some of the homes get enough reception, but from a service providers point of view, 802.11n won't get them something that won't frustrate 10-40% of installations. So, not good enough.
vrparente 12/5/2012 | 3:15:25 AM
re: Carriers Claim IPTV Wiring Worries Sony's "Location Free TV" product is WiFi based (802.11a/b/g). It's not that there can't or won't be issues with WiFi -- it's that wireless provides a solution to the wired and mobile problem. After all the idea of watching TV on a "location free tv" or on a tablet (what's the difference) is here to stay and grow.
RTL Rules 12/5/2012 | 3:15:24 AM
re: Carriers Claim IPTV Wiring Worries Anyone have a feel for whether content providers would be comfortable with the use of wireless links? They're pretty protective, demanding encryption on wired links, so "wireless" might push some buttons...

This isn't a technical question about good/bad or 802.11 encryption, BTW.

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