It’s clearly an exciting yet challenging time to be one of India’s cable operators. The move to digital has had a good start and the regulated ASO is scheduled to continue at pace. Media Partners Asia (MPA) predicts that just as analogue switch-off provided a digital dividend in western countries the same will happen in India, with predictions for Indian cable revenues jumping from $4.2 billion in 2011 to $6.4 billion by 2020. Clearly as well as leading to increased revenues, the move to digital cable causes disruption too. For instance some local operators may form cooperatives or move from last mile distribution to becoming sales operations for the larger operators and MSOs. Everyone from the MSO through to the consumer there’s going to be a need to purchase new digital equipment, from digital head-ends, edge network QAM delivery to set-top boxes for the home. The data enabled by digital CAS will be a game changer to track subscription levels and provide viewer information to allow operators to tailor their TV offering to their audience.
There is no one best way to upgrade cable networks. It really depends on where you are now, where you want to be in a year and where you want to be in 3 – 5 years from now. It also depends upon a number of factors specific to each individual operator, including how content is acquired, the operators’ future plans for advanced services such as multiscreen and multi-room as well how they aim to provide voice and broadband services.
What we’ve learnt from Europe’s move to digital is that if you don’t plan carefully you may need to upgrade your infrastructure more quickly than you would like. So whatever you’re preferred route is to your digital future its key that flexibility is a key criteria when planning the deployment of cable solutions and infrastructure.
Operators are faced with an ‘alphabet soup’of network infrastructures to chose from, including – HFC, FTTH, EPON, hybrid QAM/IP etc. As a vendor of advanced modular head-ends providing ‘any-input to any-output’ we can support interfaces for all network infrastructure and broadcast applications – in fact a lot of our early success came about because the flexibility of our unique simulcast head-end solutions enabled cable operators of all sizes to cost-effectively support analogue customer communities as their core networks whilst more densely populated regions transitioned to digital.
We believe that most operators will chose to distribute SD in MPEG-2 and move to distributing HD programming in H.264 when HD really takes-off. Operators choosing this route will providea premium STB handling both bMPEG-2 and H.264, which will differentiate the operators offer from its competitors. By providing ‘anything to anything’ head-ends we minimize the cost of moving to HD content and the flexibility of our dense compression solutions support both MPEG-2 & H.264 AVC formats and resolutions to minimize the cost of transitioning SD to HD programming and more bandwidth efficient compression format of H.264 – all in a single module. The Appear TV head-ends can support up to 550 SD channels when deployed in a single 42 RU rack, which means that cable operators can support the ‘must carry’ SD channels whilst providing substantial savings over a multiple-rack infrastructure, reducing points of failure due the integrated modular design. Our head-ends also support the simulcast of analogue and digital, so that cable operators can cost-effectively support the distribution of digital in the analogue switch-off cities as well continuing to support analogue content in the areas that have not gone digital. In addition we have developed an analogue (CVBS) input 4 channel SD module supporting MPEG-2 and H.264 AVC specifically for the India market, removing the cost of providing analogue to digital converters throughout the network for channels received via home STB. Another way in which we have reduced the cost for the Indian cable market is through removing the requirement for a Network Management System (NMS). A NMS is typically proprietary to the vendor locking the operators into a single vendor platform. The Appear TV head-ends are open standard as a design philosophy, configuration, control and monitoring capability are provided via a comprehensive featured but easy to use web interface.
As far as the head-end is concerned we believe that flexibility and density are the key to enabling India’s cable operators to cost-effectively move to digital. It is also clear from talking to our customers that the requirement for transcoding is accelerating in super head-ends, regional head-ends and at edge locations. To be able to provide this we have designed advanced transcoding functionality which builds upon our in-house encoding and decoding developments to ensure that our head-ends truly provide the ‘anything to anything’ capabilities that deliver India’s cable operators the industry leading levels of flexibility and future proofing that they need. Features include:
- Content aggregation, service filtering, decryption and decoding from any source
- Highly dense video processing, transcoding and encoding with multiformat, multi resolution, high channel density capacity in a single module for all screens
- Any carrier output or multicasting of multiple mux groups in a single chassis