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2012: The Year of the Gateway

By Ken Morse, CTO, Cisco Service Provider Video Technology Group

And here we are, video-side friends, at the start of yet another year. As we move together into 2012, I hereby declare this to be the year of the gateway.

The natural sidekick to the gateway, of course, is the client — and by “client,” I mean virtual or “soft” set-tops. CPE, and CPE software. The suite of stuff that’s going to connect up all the tablets, laptops, and new video screens we keep purchasing, as consumers, to the screens we’re used to watching (meaning TVs) for premium, subscription video content.

Let’s look more closely at the gateway, since I just so boldly declared 2012 to be its breakthrough year. And in particular, allow me to hone in on the Multiscreen Video Gateway line we’ve been working on and trialing with customers over the last year. A quick look under the hood of the Cisco 9800 series gateway, for our more gear-headed readers: Six tuners, to stream up to live or recorded streams, over IP, to other screens in the home; built-in DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem, for connectivity at rates as high as 320 Mbps downstream, and 120 Mbps upstream; transcoding engine, to convert MPEG-2 content to MPEG-4/H.264.

Because the gateway marketplace is not exactly lacking for activity, here’s a quick rundown on why gateways like ours matter to consumers, to find and consume video, and to service providers, to bridge between the existing QAM-based environment, and the future, pure-IP environment:

  1. Gateways give the term “multi-room DVR” a whole new meaning. Remember that this all starts with a “headed” architecture, like with traditional set-tops, to bring SD, HD and 3D to digital televisions in the home. Gateways build on that, not only to share DVR content between the various TV screens in the home (multi-room DVR), but also with consumer-purchased screens.
  2. They let consumers simultaneously record on six channels. Today’s QAM-based DVRs let consumers record two HD channels. Gateways increase that to six streams, simultaneously recording, and viewable across connected screens.
  3. Gateways straddle QAM, DVB, hybrid and full-IP video installations. This matters because we’re in a transition period, from one form of digital distribution (QAM), to another (IP). In transitions, gateways are vital. Why: Because service providers need to migrate, not “flash-cut,” to all-IP.
  4. They’re easy on CapEx. The combination of gateway and soft clients is considerably easier on the budget than, say, furnishing a home with more than two dual-tuner HD-DVRs. Plus, gateways can share live and on-demand content with today’s QAM-based set-tops, in addition to pure-IP set-tops – to both managed and unmanaged end point devices.
  5. They’re cloud-ready. Video and navigation features are already moving into “the cloud” – meaning not contained locally, inside the device. Our Media Gateway is, for that reason, cloud-enabled, to easily and securely store content higher up in the network.

So much for a little New Year’s tech-talk about our Multiscreen Gateways!  But don’t take my word for it. Check out the video below featuring yours truly and James Kelso, VP of Video Technology for Cox Communications, which delves into the reasons why service providers are drawing up their gateway implementation strategies. And our thanks to you, James, for helping to communicate what the heck a “gateway” is, and why it matters!

Cheers and a happy, healthy, prosperous 2012 to you all.

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