Orchestrating the Evolution to Cable IP Video

Orchestrating the Evolution to Cable IP Video
White Paper
Orchestrating the Evolution to
Cable IP Video
Written by:
Alan Breznick, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading
www.sigma-systems.com
Orchestrating the Evolution to Cable IP Video
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Introduction: Why Cable Needs IP Video
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II. Cable’s IP Video Initiatives
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III. The Back-Office Challenges of IP Video
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IV. Meeting the Back-Office Challenges
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V. Conclusion
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LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1: Growing Cable IP Video Activity
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Figure 2: OSS Service Management for IP Video
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White paper 2011
I. Introduction: Why Cable Needs IP Video
Now that IP technology has matured, cable operators are racing to embrace the concept of IP video. Facing stiffer competition from
satellite TV providers and phone companies on the one hand, and the rising threat of cord-cutting from “over the top” (OTT) video
providers on the other, cable providers are increasingly viewing IP video as their salvation.
Why? For one thing, next-gen IP video offers MSOs a potentially compelling competitive advantage. They can use it to deliver
more advanced digital video services to the home, including more sophisticated video-on-demand (VoD) offerings, whole-home
and network-based digital video recorders (DVRs), Internet video services and interactive TV features. Plus, using the additional
processing power in their networks, they can offer much better programming search and navigation tools, featuring the integration of
recommendation engines, social networking aspects and targeted advertising.
Second, cable operators can use IP video technology to deliver multi-screen video service to a rapidly growing array of new, IPconnected consumer electronics devices. The list of such devices includes broadband-connected TV sets, PCs, laptops, gaming
consoles, smartphones, iPads, other tablets, and more futuristic devices still to come.
Further, by turning to new IP video technology, cable operators can greatly simplify their transmission and distribution networks. They
can rely on IP technology to transport all of their multimedia services over a single delivery network, instead of needing separate
network silos for data, voice and video offerings.
In addition, IP video could enable cable providers to cut their high consumer premises equipment costs. For instance, they could
replace their pricey digital cable set-tops with centralized cable multimedia gateways and much cheaper, more versatile IP-based settops in the home, and then rely on consumers to buy the other video display devices in retail outlets. Instead of running expensive truck
rolls to install two, three or more digital cable set-tops in every home, MSOs could focus on upgrading their networks for the delivery of
all-IP signals.
Most importantly, with the aid of IP video technology, cable operators could offer a better, more integrated experience to customers.
This integrated user experience could include traditional linear video and VoD programming, multi-screen video service, OTT video
content and Web-style search and navigation tools, far more than MSOs can offer now.
Driven by these factors, cable operators are now scrambling to put IP video into action. At the International Consumer Electronics Show
(CES) in Las Vegas earlier this year, major North American MSOs such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable unveiled landmark deals to
stream linear TV channels and VoD titles to Samsung’s new broadband-connected Smart TVs and Android-powered Galaxy Tab tablets.
At the same time, Time Warner announced a pact to pipe IP video to Sony’s broadband-connected Bravia TVs, while Comcast said it
would feed video content to Apple’s iPads and a range of Android-powered tablets.
But even with all this activity, cable operators face numerous technical and operational hurdles in rolling out IP video to their
subscribers en masse. For good reason, cable operators don’t want to throw away their existing tens of billions of dollars in investment
on traditional QAM-based technologies. So the adoption of IP technology will not happen overnight; it will be more of an evolutionary,
rather than revolutionary, process.
In fact, the full-blown transition to IP video could well be an expensive, lengthy, complicated and possibly messy undertaking. At the
SCTE Cable-Tec Expo conference in New Orleans in October 2010, senior cable engineers estimated that it will take five to 10 years for
the industry to make the full transition from QAM to IP delivery. Nevertheless, they expressed confidence that the full switchover will
ultimately occur.
Back-office integration challenges rank high among the chief hurdles that cable operators face. In the hybrid environment that’s
expected to predominate for the next few years, cable providers must be able to convert their existing customers over to the more
advanced IP delivery method and premium entertainment services without disrupting their current suite of services. They must upgrade
their back-office systems to support, provision, activate and authorize far more video services, devices and platforms than ever before.
And they must update their old, legacy billing systems to capture and process orders for multiple video services, delivered over
multiple platforms, supplied by multiple equipment vendors.
This white paper looks at cable operators’ efforts to upgrade their networks for IP video delivery and address the back-office challenges
of doing so. In particular, the paper examines the back-office challenges for operations support systems (OSS) service management
in making the switch to IP video, focusing on the complex integration and provisioning for new video delivery platforms and the
management of a unified set of service and subscriber entitlements. The paper also offers some recommended approaches for cable
providers to overcome these OSS service management hurdles.
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Orchestrating the Evolution to Cable IP Video
II. Cable’s IP Video Initiatives
Despite their previous reluctance to embrace IP video technology because of well-founded concerns about the technology’s
development and maturity, cable operators are clearly eager to adopt IP video these days. Thanks especially to their extensive plant
upgrades and recent launches of Docsis 3.0 services, many MSOs around the world are now rolling out IP video or gearing up to do so,
both in North America and the rest of the world.
In a global study of cable operators conducted last year, for example, Heavy Reading found that 40 percent of cable operators plan to
launch IPTV by the end of 2012. Moreover, nearly 80 percent of cable providers said they have already begun or intend to start technical
trials, field pilots or full deployments of IP-based video solutions by the close of 2012.
Several major North American MSOs have already begun introducing IP video services in their regions. Over the last few months,
Cablevision Systems and Time Warner Cable have both launched live TV channel feeds for Apple’s iPad, despite protests and
threatened lawsuits over content licensing rights from such major cable programmers as Viacom, Fox Cable Networks and Discovery
Communications. In fact, Time Warner, seeking to be freed from the constraints of today’s digital set-top boxes, has announced plans
to offer most of its video lineup as an IP simulcast by the end of the year.
At the same time, Comcast is busily preparing to stream live TV programming to iPads and other tablets later this year, while Charter
is working on an iPad app with TiVo, as shown in the chart below. In a vivid demonstration at the Cable Show in Chicago in mid June,
Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts showed off a new Web-based TV guide and content navigation service, known as Xcalibur,
that’s now in the testing stages.
Further, several large North American MSOs are now developing video-optimized content delivery networks (CDNs) to act as vast
pipelines of IP-based video services. For instance, Comcast already has its video-optimized CDN up and running in more than half of
its markets throughout the U.S. Plans call for Comcast to extend its still-developing CDN nationwide this year, with up to four central
libraries for storing video titles, as also shown in the chart below.
Figure 1: Growing Cable IP Video Activity
MSO
IP Video Activity
Comcast
Launched Project Xcalibur to develop IPTV and video convergence services. Developing videooptimized CDN, with CDN now operating in majority of markets. Struck deals in January to
stream on-demand and live content to Samsung’s broadband-connected TVs, Apple’s iPads
and Android-powered tablets. Boasts that subscribers have now downloaded more than 1.5 million
iPad apps. Plans to start the live streaming to tablets soon. Now testing Web-based TV guide and
content navigation system.
Time Warner Cable
Reportedly tapped Microsoft Mediaroom for IPTV pilot in L.A. Developing video-optimized CDN.
Struck deals in January to stream video to Samsung’s and Sony’s broadband-connected TVs and
Samsung’s Android-powered tablets. Started streaming 32 live video channels to iPad users in
March. Programmer threats then forced it to pull some channels but it added even more, boosting
total to 73. Boasts that more than 360,000 iPad users have downloaded the app. Aims to simulcast
nearly all of its cable lineup in IP video by year’s end.
Cox Communications
Using IP video technology to deliver 230 TV channels to new CityCenter project in Las Vegas. Now
conducting TV Everywhere trial. Developed new integrated TV guide. Struck deal with TiVo in
August 2010 to integrate online and on-demand video services in TiVo cable DVRs.
Cablevision Systems
Began testing “Optimum Link” service, which brings online video content to TV, late last year.
Launched PC/TV relay service in early 2011. Began offering full linear lineup of 280 live channels
and on-demand video to iPad users in April. Now facing Viacom lawsuit over move.
Charter Communications
Completed TV Everywhere service test earlier this year. Now weighing next step. Struck agreement
with TiVo in January for OTT and on-demand services, including iPad app, online video and remote
DVR programming. Plans to launch iPad app later in year.
Source: Heavy Reading, June 2011
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White paper 2011
III. The Back-Office Challenges of IP Video
To be sure, there are plenty of implementation hurdles to overcome before IP video technology becomes the cable industry standard.
In last year’s global survey of cable operators, for instance, Heavy Reading found that 54 percent of respondents view technological
issues as one of the biggest challenges to delivering IP video. Further, exactly half of cable providers view legacy cable systems as one
of the biggest hurdles to overcome. And one third of cable providers cite high costs as a major challenge.
As noted earlier, many of the biggest technical, operational and cost hurdles come from the back-office domain. In this section, we
focus on some of the chief back-office challenges for OSS service management.
First, cable operators face the daunting challenge of migrating their existing digital cable customers over to the more advanced IP
video platform in a controlled, manageable fashion. In the hybrid environment that’s expected to predominate for the next few years,
many customers will likely access video through both traditional digital cable services on the TV set and a premium IP video service for
IP-enabled devices. So MSOs will need to coordinate and orchestrate all the authorizations, entitlements and provisioning of multiple
entertainment services to multiple devices effectively to deliver a truly integrated video experience.
Second, cable providers will face the challenge of supporting multiple next-gen multimedia services delivered by multiple content
delivery platforms, not just the linear digital video platforms that they deploy today. This means they will have to be able to provision,
entitle, activate and bill for video services distributed over a number of new delivery platforms from multiple technology vendors. The
list of vendors includes emerging cable multimedia gateway and IPTV software players such as TiVo, Arris Moxi, NDS, Technicolor,
Microsoft Mediaroom and others. It also includes the providers of new conditional access systems (CAS) and digital rights management
(DRM) systems.
Further, if cable operators wish to offer “TV Everywhere” multi-screen video services to subscribers, they must work with another
entire set of entitlement servers, separate from their existing CAS infrastructure, to detail these entitlements. If some of these new
platforms are located “in the cloud” beyond the MSO’s video delivery network, as in the case of TiVo, then these cloud-based services
and applications must also be entitled for access and usage by customers on one or more devices. Plus, these additional service
entitlements must be mapped to the specific devices themselves. Thus, service-level provisioning and subscriber entitlements must be
managed in a coherent, unified way to ensure that the subscriber image and experience are in sync across all of the varied platforms.
Third, cable operators will have to address the challenge of device provisioning in the back office to activate and manage the new IP
set-tops, cable multimedia gateways and other IP-enabled devices in the home. Indeed, as they introduce new video playback devices
into their service delivery architectures, MSOs must upgrade their legacy back-office systems to support, provision, activate and
authorize far more video devices than ever before, ranging from laptops to game consoles to tablets to smartphones.
In particular, cable providers will face the dilemma of integrating the new cable multimedia gateways into their existing back-office
systems. With these home networking gateways emerging as the prime way to convert QAM video to IP video and then distribute
those video signals around the home, cable providers will have to provision and activate three or more different services (video, voice
and data) on the gateways, as well as enable the multi-screen video experience. Instead of managing each service encased in its own
separate operational silo, as they do today, MSOs will need the ability to adjust the settings on each service without disrupting the
other services they deliver.
Moreover, home gateways will require software upgrade management and the ability to assign and manage IPv6 address space. These
operational processes pose incremental challenges that must be addressed with new device provisioning strategies and solutions.
Finally, cable providers must be able to provision high-speed data service upgrades to their gateways so that the Web and IP video
content can be rapidly viewed or downloaded.
Legacy billing, customer relationship management (CRM) and business support systems (BSS) are simply not equipped to manage
back-office provisioning and entitlements for such a wide array of new video/content delivery platforms, services and devices. As a
result, MSOs will have to investigate new IT back-office solutions, with a special focus on OSS service management, to address the
transformation from linear video viewing to a unified, IP video customer experience.
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Orchestrating the Evolution to Cable IP Video
IV. Meeting the Back-Office Challenges
Fortunately, the extensive back-office challenges of orchestrating the IP video evolution can be met, especially with assistance
from experienced OSS vendors that are well versed in both traditional linear video delivery and the newer IP video platform. Such
video experience is crucial because, even though IP video may closely resemble other IP services and be delivered over the same IP
infrastructure as data and VoIP services, it is still a video service. No matter how the video is delivered, customers still have certain
expectations of video service and quality from decades of TV viewing, including linear channel lineups and programming, VoD
capabilities, DVR/PVR and PPV services.
In this section, we suggest some steps that cable operators can take to support the OSS back-office rollout of IP video services. In
particular, this section focuses on how cable providers can upgrade and transform their IT back-office systems to develop an integrated
view and management of all video and entertainment services, complete with a single image of all subscriber and service-level
entitlements, authorizations and provisioning processes.
Ideally, cable operators might consider replacing their outmoded BSS systems, which typically manage linear video today, to cope with
the far greater operational burdens of next-gen video services. By replacing their BSS systems, they would insure that their OSS backoffice systems could meet the demands of integrating multiple video services, platforms, devices, vendors, DRM and CAS.
But if installing a brand new BSS platform for linear video is simply not plausible, then cable providers should look at how to augment
and enhance their existing BSS systems with new, more powerful OSS service management capabilities. With new OSS software
solutions, they can upgrade to IP video service delivery and migrate their linear video subscribers to premium entertainment services
effectively, at their own carefully controlled pace.
The most critical move for MSOs is to place a new OSS service layer between their existing BSS layer and the network elements. As
shown in Figure 2, this new service layer will let cable operators define an integrated ‘service catalog’ and uniformly provision their
growing lineup of advanced IP video services.
Figure 2: OSS Service Management for IP Video
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White paper 2011
Specifically, with this integrated OSS service layer, cable providers can establish new, common service definitions that cover all types
of video services, including both linear video and advanced IP video. With these common service definitions firmly in place, MSOs
can provision a variety of video platforms and devices without having to modify their BSS infrastructure. The service layer provides
abstraction from how the service is delivered on the network and allows the migration to, and integration with, next-generation
platforms in a managed and controlled manner, with little impact on upstream BSS systems.
Cable operators also need a properly integrated OSS service layer that will allow them to orchestrate customer entitlements effectively
across all of their upstream and downstream video and content delivery platforms. In particular, such orchestration is necessary for
the provisioning of next-gen, cloud-based services. These new cloud-based services and applications must be entitled for access and
usage by cable customers on one or more display devices.
Consider the case of TiVo. To guarantee a common customer video experience across all platforms, the MSO’s OSS service layer must
first ensure that the customer video entitlements and CableCARDs are set up in the traditional CAS and VoD systems for linear TV.
Then, the service layer must enable operators to activate the subscribers and set-top boxes in the TiVo cloud, and turn on a whole new
level of entitlements just for that video delivery platform.
But that’s not all: The OSS service layer must also ensure that the customer’s Docsis broadband service has been updated to provide
the correct amount of bandwidth so that the set-tops can “talk” back to the TiVo cloud. In addition, the service layer must grant access
from the customer’s cable modem through the operator’s network to the TiVo cloud.
Finally, if the cable provider is also pursuing a TV Everywhere strategy, there’s yet more work to be done. The OSS service layer must
make sure that each customer’s video entitlements are set up on the separate TV Everywhere authorization servers. It also must ensure
that these service entitlements are mapped to the devices that subscribers use to view the entertainment services.
If any of the preceding interactions should fail, then the customer will not get the enhanced video experience that’s been promised.
Thus, it is critical that cable operators be able to perform this orchestration and easily identify and correct the problem when even just
one element has gone wrong.
With all of their subscribers’ video entitlement information available to the service layer, cable operators are now poised to accomplish
this feat. As a result, they can effectively migrate their traditional linear video subscribers to IP-based video services as quickly or as
slowly as their business plans permit, with minimal impact on their existing upstream BSS systems.
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Orchestrating the Evolution to Cable IP Video
V. Conclusion
After years in the making, the long-awaited IP video technology era has finally begun in earnest for the cable industry. Cable operators
are now scrambling to prepare their networks and equipment for the delivery of IP video services, as they seek to improve the user
experience for their customers, maintain their competitive edge in the video domain, serve a wide array of new CPE devices and reduce
their capital and operational expenses.
To be sure, cable providers still face a number of significant challenges in turning their IP video dreams into reality. Chief among these
challenges are the back-office hurdles of migrating their existing video customers over to the new IP delivery method. MSOs must
upgrade their back-office systems to support, provision, activate and authorize far more video services, devices and platforms than ever
before, and update their legacy billing systems to capture a wide variety of new billable video product offerings.
But, as this white paper has shown, these seemingly daunting hurdles can all be overcome. With the help of experienced OSS vendors
well versed in both traditional video delivery and the newer IP platforms, cable providers can make the next great transition without
disrupting the lives of their current customers or creating new operational headaches for themselves.
In short, cable operators can finally realize their IP video dreams without worrying about these dreams turning into their worst
nightmares. They can bravely march into the new IP video era and begin offering next-gen services that keep them one step ahead of
the competition, extend their reach to new display devices and keep their operational costs down. Perhaps most importantly, they can
use IP video to keep their customers happy, satisfied and hungry for even more.
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