Cable Operators

TWC Drives Out Into the IP Lane

9/22/2010 2:01 PM Eastern

Cable customers may soon be asking,
“What’s on the iPad tonight?” Time
Warner Cable, for one, wants to let its
subscribers watch TV programming on
tablets, PCs and other Internet protocol-
based devices in the home.
But according to Mike LaJoie, the
MSO’s executive vice president and
chief technology officer, the gradual
shift from traditional MPEG to IP video
won’t impose unwieldy bandwidth demands. LaJoie, TWC’s CTO since 2004,
spoke recently with Multichannel News
technology editor Todd Spangler.

MCN: Where are you on TV Everywhere
deployment?

Mike LaJoie:
What do you mean by
that? What does that mean to you?

MCN: Well, it’s services that give video
subscribers access to TV content on
non-TV devices.

ML:
I guess, for me, TV Everywhere
— the way I use that term — it’s really
about having the systems in place that
allow cable-television
networks to put
their programming
on their website,
and make it available
to my customers.
FoTWC CTO Mike LaJoier how we’re
doing on that, it’s
up and running, it scales and we’re absolutely
in favor of it. We think customers
should be able to get that content
on a cable network’s website.

The other question of allowing customers
to watch their subscription video
and on-demand video on devices without
having to use the set-top box or on a
device other than a TV — that’s exactly
what we do today. It’s multichannel video
over our private network.

MCN: But you still need a gateway or
set-top to deliver video in the home,
right?

ML: A gateway in the home is certainly
a possibility, but it could be as simple
as a cable modem. What you connect
across that network — MoCA [Multimedia
over Coax Alliance] or Wi-Fi
— within the home, it’s all one IP-address
space.

An iPad, the way we look at it, is one of
many customer-owned IP devices we expect
to see. They’re convenient for people
to carry around and consume their
media on it. So we’re focusing on making
those devices sing and dance better
for the customer. We are in the process
of targeting those devices in ways that
enrich the customer experience.

MCN: So Time Warner Cable will deliver
all its video in IP? Won’t that require
more bandwidth?

ML:
Yes, eventually all the channel
lineup will be
available to [IP-based]
devices in
the home. Will it
create bandwidth
issues? If customers
start watching
10 hours [of TV] a
day, instead of seven and a half, then
I’ll have to figure out how to manufacture
the bandwidth that’s required.
But if they’re watching the same
amount, I’m fine.

There’s going to be more load delivering
those same video services over
DOCSIS … As we start serving customer-owned
devices, we can take advantage
of much more aggressive compression
technologies. There are smaller
screens. You could make the argument
that the bandwidth demand — as more
and more personal devices are introduced
— could possibly go down, on a
per-customer basis, although there are
other things pushing it up like 3D and
Ultra HD [up to 16 times the resolution
of 1080p HD] if that comes out.

MCN: What’s your road map to digital-only?

ML:
Eventually we will be at digital-only
across all systems. We have a
program that over time we’ll reclaim
[analog channels] for digital broadcast,
or switched digital video or DOCSIS.
We do retire analog slots. The number of analog channels per system
is down by four to six channels
that we’ve just reclaimed on average.

MCN: Is there a place for digital-to-analog converters?

ML:
Will D-to-A, cheap converters,
be one of the tools? Yeah,
probably. But there’s also this
question mark out there: How
many millions of these do we
want to buy, and what is the useful
life of those converters? If I
can wait another three to four
years for Internet-connected
TVs and things like that, does
that reduce the need?

MCN: Is going to 1 Gigahertz an
option?

ML:
Is there a need to do 1 GHz? I
have a couple of systems that are
1 GHz. New York City, Nebraska
and a segment of [Los Angeles]
are a gig. We did that many years
ago. The question is, When do I
have to [upgrade other systems]?
I don’t have to do that today. Today,
I have enough space [in a
750 MHz system] for 24 channels
of SDV [switched digital video],
the broadcast I need, well over
100 and as many as 200 high-def
channels, several channels for
VOD and DOCSIS. I don’t have a
driving need to spend a bunch of
money.

MCN: What’s after DOCSIS 3.0
for cable broadband?

ML:
I don’t know. We’re just at
the beginning stages of deploying
DOCSIS 3.0. We’re looking
at other modulations — there
are lots of different possibilities.
But DOCSIS 3.0, it just depends
on what you think you’re going
to need. It gives us legs … We’ve
done DOCSIS 3.0 in the lab up to
a gig [1 Gigabit per second].


MCN: Time Warner Cable has
been leading the industry on
Tru2way adoption. What advantages
has that given you?

ML:
It really gives us a platform
that multiple vendors can develop
hardware to. It’s very easy
for us to have different vendors
in the same system, whether it’s
a Samsung box or a Cisco box, or
a Motorola or a Pace box for that
matter. The benefits are, you have
more choice among device providers
and less inventory issues.
From an application perspective,
there is a huge benefit we’re just
beginning to take advantage of.


MCN: EBIF [Enhanced TV Binary
Interchange Format] is the platform
for interactive advertising
picked by Canoe. How widely is
that deployed?

ML:
We’ll have many millions
of EBIF set-tops by the end of
this year. It’s really a very good
platform for relatively simple interactive
applications and very,
very effective for things that are
program-synchronous and advertising-related.

September