All of CenturyLink's ongoing network upgrades with bandwidth are about enabling new IP-based services on the residential side, including of course IPTV. CenturyLink's Prism IPTV service is being offered in five markets so far: Columbia and Jefferson City, Mo., Ft. Myers, Fla., La Crosse, Wis., and Las Vegas, Nev.
After spending over a century delivering voice and more recently data services, CenturyLink's entry into the TV business is all about learning how to make the customer installation experience a positive one.
"So far things have gone well for us," Huber said. "We're easing into it and learning what are the most efficient techniques to use for in-home installation and what are the better technologies? Is it better to leverage coax, Home Phoneline Network Alliance (HPNA) or are we going to do wireless?"
For its initial deployments of IPTV, CenturyLink has been using HPNA and Ethernet if it has to as the home connection to distribute video and data around the home.
By using HPNA, CenturyLink can tap into the existing coax cable if the consumer was a former cable subscriber. In the event that the coax is either unusable or not existent, the next step is to install Ethernet cable to carry the video signal.
Given the man hours needed to install Ethernet cable, why not use wireless technology?
While CenturyLink sees the value in using WiFi and is even working with an unnamed STB vendor on its own solution, Huber said the ILEC wants to make sure that technology can live up to its quality standards. Right now, CenturyLink continues to trial various wireless products from a number of vendors inside of its labs, but has not determined when any of them would be part of its commercial deployment strategy.
"We're on working with the different STB providers on an in-home wireless solution, but we want to make sure our customers get the best experience," he said. "When you start transmitting some very very high bandwidth wireless solutions throughout the home, we want to make sure that's working well before we start going down that path."
Despite the initial concerns over using wireless to transmit video throughout a home, Huber added that wireless could enhance the installation process.
"I don't know if wireless will ever become the targeted solution at least for now, but my hope is within two years that wireless in the home is the chosen approach because obviously makes installation very simple," Huber said. "My goal is to eventually make IPTV a self-installable product."
On top of that IPTV connection, Centurylink will deliver not only traditional features (national and local TV channels), but like AT&T's U-verse is to have whole home DVR and other IP services.
"One of the biggest drivers is the whole home DVR where you can have one DVR box for multiple TVs to record/pause," Huber said. "Then there's other capabilities with IPTV can link into other applications like Facebook that we have on the roadmap that we're working towards."
But CenturyLink's home networking desires aren't just about delivering TV and data in the home alone.
With an IP-based network in the home, it's likely to use that connection to upsell and bundle with other home services, including security and home monitoring.
Being able to deliver other home services is the "value of an IPTV approach, which is, what other non-video services I can bundle together?"
Although CenturyLink hasn't worked out an actual home services strategy yet, Huber said that in one possible scenario where "I am watching TV and the doorbell could rings at my home and my security camera pops up on my Picture in Picture (PIP) so I can see who's at the door and decide whether I want to pause the movie and answer the door."