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Stofa CTO: “IP will allow us to provide full flexibility to customers”

Thomas Helbo, CTO at Stofa

Thomas Helbo, CTO at Stofa

Thomas Helbo, CTO at Danish cable operator Stofa, discusses the near completion of Stofa’s transition to DOCSIS 3.0, the need to differentiate on the user interface and experience, and the most pressing technical issues to be solved as multiscreen video services proliferate.

Where does Stofa stand with its integration of DOCSIS 3.0?

Stofa has fully integrated with DOCSIS3.0 in the head-ends and we are currently deploying DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems. New customers and customers with an access higher than 15 Mbps will be upgraded with a new cable modem with built-in WIFI and VoIP. Top speed today is 112 Mbps and we have replaced three out of every four modems with DOCSIS 3.0.

What do you find most exciting about the prospect of delivering services via IP cable?

In Denmark we have a tradition of having a channel line-up divided into two or three packages. The evolution to digital TV has inherited this infrastructure. Over the last few years we have seen an increase in demand for flexibility and more individual access to channels.

I see that IP will allow us to provide full flexibility to customers which have that interest. The evolution will, however, happen in steps. In my opinion, step one will be to change interactivity to IP, since the Motorola STB in our environment has support for this.

The following step will be to introduce niche broadcast channels, but this will be limited in the “legacy” of DVB-C TV sets not supporting IP.

As Europe’s communications networks move to high-speed and all-IP, how can operators differentiate themselves?

I see that user interfaces will be the main differentiator in the market for all IP devices. User interfaces are mostly referring to the graphical user interface in the STB, which, I believe, will be the key differentiation, but another user interface is the ability to handle customer care, billing of customers and having a relationship to customers.

In this way, an operator will be able to continue as an aggregator by providing various options of content to customers. Today I see that one of Stofa’s best differentiators compared to TV sets is the graphical user interface.

The new versions of Smart TV being brought to market today have more or less the same physical interface, and the graphical user interface within the TV will be an important parameter – and here I think most hardware manufactures are far from providing a simple and innovative TV user interface.

What do you think are the most pressing technical issues to be solved as multiscreen video services proliferate?

The various Android versions and hardware with very different capabilities are an issue when streaming video.

Over time we will see that new hardware will have plenty of support to deliver video services, but over the next years it will be a problem. The ratio of new telephones hitting the market will help in eliminating this.

Furthermore, the differentiation between smooth streaming and HLS might be an issue, and, as always, it will help everybody in the industry if we can agree on a common standard.

Thomas will be speaking at the IP Cable World Summit 2012 event taking place in Berlin, Germany on 27th-28th November. For more information and to register, please visit http://ip-cable.net/

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