FierceTelecom: Switching gears back to the IPTV space, what are some of the top factors does a company needs to consider when implementing IPTV?
Thompson: For IPTV launch, I would say the two things they really need to ensure, from our point of view, a middleware vendor, Microsoft Mediaroom or something like that is going to be looking at something very different--they're going to be looking at the encryption you're using, what kind of DRM you're using, something like that. We're providing what I've started to call the last 2,000 feet of access, which would be within the home networking space. We terminate the carrier line with our CPE, and then we have a large reach of networking products that actually can carry the IPTV signal within the home to get to the set top box to show it on the actual television. I would say the two most important things are the quality of service and making sure the home network connection is very robust and very reliable.
I'm sure you're well aware, the requirements for IPTV are very different from traditional Internet data. The Internet was built on a fault-tolerant protocol. The entire thing is built to work around problems, dropped packets, missing routers, things of that nature. So there is very little time independence inherent in the network, whereas IPTV, if you start getting packets out of order, or if you start dropping packets, there's very little ability, very little fault tolerance to get those packets back, to retransmit or receive them. Now the best you can do is set up a decent sized buffer, and that gives you a little bit of a chance to request failed or dropped packets and things like that. If it starts falling behind the customer immediately starts noticing through the artefacting on the television, through the audio not syncing quite right with the video, with any number of very visible problems especially in the digital layer. You see this on satellite when leaves start falling off of trees. You see this on cable when there's a rainstorm and you've got one bit of their coax that wasn't shielded properly, or they're trying to fit too much data into a pipe, which has been a problem with the HDTV launches.
For IPTV, it's the same thing with if you don't have enough bandwidth to the customer and through their home to the set top boxes, your picture is gonna fail just the same. It doesn't matter how good it looks back in your lab, back at your facility, if it doesn't look good on the customer's TV you get complaints and you get churn.
FierceTelecom: Would you like to elaborate on the home network connection? On some of the options that potential operators might have?
Thompson: Actually, I just gave a talk on this, the different types of wiring for carrying data vs. IPTV. You probably are fairly familiar with the two major technologies used for carrying IPTV within a home: basic Ethernet or Cat 5, and HPNA. You've got some providers like Verizon using MoCA but it's pretty much relegated to just them. And then there's, we've been selling HomePlug AV gear for years, but the connection quality hasn't been good enough for any major North American telcos to pick it up.
There has been a ton of HomePlug AV gear in Asian markets for IPTV. Chunghwa Telecom has been one of our largest customers, using that for their multimedia on demand product. Fairly similar to AT&T U-verse at the very basic level. But in North America it seems like we have so much coax already existing in the walls and HPNA is a little more reliable once you get it installed and up and running.
Towards that end, we've been bringing out new products with more HPNA enabled, including a new product we'll be announcing within the next couple of weeks, which is a VDSL2 with HPNA built in. And we've had an HPNA home adapter--an Ethernet to HPNA bridge--that's been doing very well for a number of our customers including a couple of Tier 2s for IPTV deployment.
Everybody would like to get wireless, but nobody's quite able to make it work for HD streams.