Tech Challenges Abound in the New World of IP Service Delivery

Internet Protocol-based (IP-based) service delivery is the wave of the future for the cable industry, a shift that has fostered an overhaul in the underlying technical architecture of cable networks.  But the industry still has a lot pioneering ahead in order to efficiently deliver the wide range of IP-based services envisioned for the 21st Century.

A crew of industry tech innovators delved into some of the all-important underlying details of the transition to IP-based service delivery today during a Cable Show technical forum entitled Cloudy, with a Chance of Breakthrough:  New Models for IP Service Delivery. The good news about the transition to IP service delivery is that the power of cable’s transmission capabilities is radically multiplied because reduction of content to streamable data bits enables the more rapid and efficient delivery of all kinds of diverse content.  The challenges arise, however, because a bit is a bit is a bit and it’s hard to tell one bit from the next without sophisticated forms of identification.

One key to solving some of the IP service delivery challenges is metadata cell encoding, according to Michael Adams, Vice President, Software Strategy, Solution Area TV at Ericsson.  In short, metadata cell encoding could be a crucial step in managing the diverse kinds of content flowing over cable’s IP pipeline by signaling to the welter of consumer electric devices the nature of the content bits (the metadata contains the necessary identifying information), allowing the multiple types of TV “screens” to know which bits of data are right for which devices.

In a “TV Everywhere” world, consumers could get frustrated finding the right kind of content amid the masses of options, Michael Kazmier, CTO of Avail-TVN said.  That’s why Avail-TVN is advocating the creation of a central database of the various kinds of IP-based content.  This mediated, federated source of content would be a meeting place of sorts that identifies the content and outlines its features.  “If the consumer can’t find what they’re looking for, you have failed as a service provider,” Kazmier said.

Not all challenges arise from providing more detailed information about the data streams.  Gaming, for example, is evolving into a “now” service for cable, offering  up the prospect of real-time or near real-time interactions among players.  But latency, or the time between when a piece of data is sent and when it is received, could undercut the “now” characteristic needed for a successful gaming service.  “The challenge in video gaming is to make the latency short enough to create the feel of real-time gaming,” said Charles Jablonski, Vice President of video gaming company OnLive.

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