Monday, September 24, 2007

Motorola Facilitating MPEG-4

I went to a small Motorola briefing on Friday with three other analysts to hear a presentation on systems that Motorola has just announced that facilitate the delivery of content from the broadcasters to cable, satellite, and TelcoTV service providers.

This is a real advantages to the TelcoTV service providers that deliver their content using MPEG-4. It eliminates the need to transcode from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 that exists for these service providers today. Motorola has introduced the DSR-4410MD that takes the MPEG-4 content from the satellite, decrypts it, and then passes it on so that it can be transmitted to the subscribers in the same MPEG-4 format.

The satellite companies have already started the move toward MPEG-4 in order to increase their capacity for HD channels. This has enabled the satellite companies to offer more HD channels than their cable competitors. The satellite companies can basically take the same approach as the TelcoTV service providers.

It turns out that there are substantial advantages for the cable companies as well. The industry is moving to a new modulation scheme called DVB-S2 that increases the bandwidth of a satellite channel from 40 Mbps to 77 Mbps. The current 40 Mbps satellite channel with MPEG-2 compression supports 10 SD TV channels. The new 77 Mbps satellite channel with MPEG-4 compression supports 9 HD TV channels, which permits the cable companies to switch from SD to HD with nearly the same TV channel capacity.

Motorola just announced the DSR-6000 transcoders that will take the MPEG-4 SD or HD from the satellite and transcode it to MPEG-2. It is capable of producing both MPEG-2 SD and HD streams from an MPEG-4 HD stream off of the satellite. This eliminates the need to transmit both SD and HD versions of the same TV channel across the satellite. The cost of these systems is about the same as those that the cable companies are buying today.

Motorola gave us a demonstration with half the screen being displayed with MPEG-2 HD content and the other half with HD content transcoded from MPEG-4. I could not see any difference between the two sides of the screens nor could I find any evidence of a discontinuity at the dividing line between the two halves of the screen.

This appears to be an important development that will facilitate the transformation of TV to HD. It also simplifies the delivery of TelcoTV services.

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