Video-Over-IP Charges On
"Three things have made video-over-IP for telcos a viable model now," says Andy Bray, principal of consultancy Netrius Associates. In a newly published report on Light Reading (see Video Over IP), which follows an earlier Webinar, Bray describes how bigger bandwidth, better compression, and advances in multicasting are converging to help make IP TV a revenue reality for carriers and cable operators.
On the compression front, Bray cites new progress in video codecs that help cram multiple video channels onto IP networks -- an absolute must for carriers hoping to make video the linchpin of bundled services to consumers.
At the forefront of the compression story are standards developed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Motion Picture Experts Group, such as MPEG-2 and MPEG-4. According to Bray, these specs are helping increase interoperability among products that hitherto were based only on proprietary codecs.
The ITU's H.264 specs, which incorporate MPEG-4 and have been in the works for the last couple of years are starting to appear in vendor equipment (see ITU Unveils Video Standard). This week, for instance, Tandberg announced support for H.264 across its product line of video headend and endpoint gear (see Tandberg Supports H.264), with commercial shipments planned for late October.
Last month, another video-over-IP supplier, Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT), demonstrated H.264 compliance at a broadcasters' confab in Europe. It announced plans to support H.264 back in September 2002. No date has been set for commercial shipments, despite the tradeshow demos.
Other vendors are biding their time. SkyStream Networks Inc. hopes to release supportive gear within the next six months, a spokesperson says. VideoTele.com Inc. has not announced plans for commercial deployment.
These vendors aren't the only ones scrutinizing the emerging market. Bray says more mainstream networking players like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) are eager to advance their positions through partnerships with key players as well as through their own efforts. The purchase of iMagicTV by Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) was one significant move (see Digital TV M&A Heats Up and Alcatel Finalizes iMagicTV Acquisition).
These vendors have a row to hoe, however, according to the 2003 Telecom Equipment Market Perception Study recently released by Heavy Reading, the market research division of Light Reading (see Heavy Reading Surveys Telecom Vendors). Cisco got the highest name recognition in the video-over-IP category, but it was it was the most sparsely known sector in the whole survey, which covered 22 product categories and 304 vendors.
Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) was recognized as a supplier by fewer than half of the 84 respondents in this product group (in all, 770 carrier employees took the survey). However, Microsoft pipped Cisco and Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) to the post on price leadership. The Heavy Reading report notes that no single vendor is yet able to deliver a complete soup-to-nuts video-over-IP network.
— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading