The day has long passed since the cable industry was the bright young starlet on stage, stealing the spotlight from the bigger, older, stodgier broadcasters. Instead, cable operators nowadays are usually seen as just another part of the established communications order, desperately trying to fend off incursions by OTT video providers, Google Fiber and other fresh young rivals.
Yet innovation remains one of the hallmarks of the mature cable business, as engineers and other technologists continue to churn out new products to advance the industry's cause. As a result, scores -- if not hundreds -- of new products have been introduced since spring 2014 by cable vendors seeking to come up with The Next Big Thing for the industry.
This latest crop of releases has produced a list of nearly a dozen strong entries for best new cable product of the year. As usual, these entries cover virtually all parts of the cable technology spectrum, from broadband chipsets to cloud-based video platforms to monitoring and testing products.
In choosing the six finalists for best new cable product, we looked for entries that have made strong early headway in the market, earned favorable reviews from cable operators or third parties and/or created industry buzz with innovative approaches. We also looked for products from startups that are bucking the industry's pecking order, as well as offerings from more familiar firms that seemed particularly fresh and exciting.
So, here are the six new cable products that qualified for this year's Leading Lights finalist line-up (presented in alphabetical order).
Accedian Networks – SkyLight VCX/ant Module In March, Accedian came out with a new approach to service assurance for enterprise-to-data center connections in the NFV realm, based on small, "bite-sized" programmable modules, which Accedian calls "ant" modules, and intelligent software. The SkyLight VCX is intended to be a virtual CPE platform that can support a wide range of public and private connections for today's hybrid cloud world while supporting the service level agreements that enterprise customers expect.
More precisely, SkyLight VCX builds router functionality, including mapping, service-level guarantees and reporting, into a small-form-factor programmable (SFP) unit, replacing expensive dedicated appliances. The VCX is the controller that hosts all of the NFV functions that would be embedded in a traditional device.
Accedian announced last month that seven service providers around the world are now deploying its virtual customer premises equipment. Accedian wouldn't name the service providers, but did say they include four mobile operators in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, as well as two of the largest cable operators and a Tier 1 wireline carrier in the US. Sources told Light Reading that two likely SkyLight VCX customers are Cox Communications Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc. , both of which are previously announced Accedian customers.
- Accedian Touts 7 Service Provider vCPE Wins
- Accedian Takes Virtual CPE to the Minimum
- Accedian Launches Virtual Assurance Modules
ActiveVideo Networks – CloudTV Streamcast After years of banging its head against the proverbial wall, ActiveVideo is finally making a name for itself now with its CloudTV Streamcast product. The cloud-based video platform will soon launch across the US with Charter Communications Inc. after a successful trial in Fort Worth, Texas last year. It also played a big role in the decision by Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) and Charter to acquire ActiveVideo for $135 million in a joint venture two months ago.
CloudTV Streamcast turns web content into a personalized video stream that can then be delivered to almost any type of digital set-top box. This technical approach, which builds on the platform that ActiveVideo has already used to implement cloud-based user interfaces, allows cable operators and pay-TV providers to reach all their video subscribers with advanced guide features, not just those customers with newer IP set-tops.
UPC Hungary, a business unit of Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), was the first service provider publicly to deploy CloudTV Streamcast when it introduced an app store on its cable HD set-tops in May 2014. UPC Hungary then extended access to all of its 1.5 million video subscribers by the end of last year. This store features apps for more than 20 online services, including such notable ones as YouTube, Flickr and Google Maps.
- Arris, Charter Nab ActiveVideo for $135M
- Cable Subs Hungary for YouTube
- UPC Adds YouTube to Cable Line-Up
Adobe Systems – Adobe Primetime Seeking to rule the now rapidly growing TV Everywhere space, Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE) announced general availability of its Adobe Primetime video publishing product last spring and then upgraded it in September. The cloud-based video platform consists of Adobe's video player, digital rights management solution, ad insertion technology, ad serving tools and video analytics capabilities.
With a truckload of vendors vying to be the platform providers for TV Everywhere services, Adobe is striving to be flexible. So content and service providers can sign up for the entire suite of services or pick and choose which elements they want. Adobe also signed a deal with thePlatform Inc. , a Comcast unit, in January to sell the Adobe Primetime platform and thePlatform's video management system as part of "an end-to-end IP video solution" for both TV programmers and distributors.
So far, Adobe has made strong inroads with Primetime, signing up Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI) as two of its biggest service provider customers. On the content provider side, Adobe has enlisted such major programmers as Comcast's NBC Sports unit, Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) and Turner Broadcasting System Inc. .
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