Having been there at the “beginning” of digital video as TCI and Cox blazed the way with their initial deployments in 1996-97, I have witnessed many changes in the way networks are built and managed. In those initial deployments, digital video was a bit of a science project as we all learned along the way. That was followed with “cookie cutter” deployments in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s when the goal was to get digital to as many subscribers as possible as quickly as possible to combat the growing threat from satellite. The last few years have seen video begin to evolve into a variety of narrowcast service models (VOD, SDV, nPVR) to compete with the growing online video business. As this transition has begun, the complexity of video networks has exploded with the number of “moving parts” growing dramatically. Whereas those early days saw a digital system contain maybe a dozen new devices, a medium size VOD system may see 1,000 new QAM channels!
As the network has evolved, we “video-heads” have had to learn more about the data world with our MPEG streams now carried across the same backbone IP network as DOCSIS services. This trend is now moving from the backbone to the access network with the introduction of DOCSIS 3.0 and eventual separation of the QAM and data layers of the CMTS.
What does this new world mean for vendors? It means that the days of a single vendor creating an end-to-end delivery network are gone. For the mutual benefit of our customers and ourselves, we need to work together to not simply make a system work but also to make it operationally friendly – easy to install and maintain. The introduction of universal QAM modulators, spanning all services is one way that we as vendors can help our end customers. But we cannot just stop at developing best-of-breed products – we need strong cooperation and integration among ourselves to enable the technologies, and ultimately applications, that our customers require to be deployed.
Whether it is video, data or data that is video, the growing complexities of our customers’ networks compels those in the vendor community to work together to ensure that we all benefit. Here at RGB, we are taking an aggressive stance towards the development of an integration capability to assist our customers – you’ll hear more from me on that in future posts.