SCTE (www.scte.org) helped put a definitive new stick in the ground when it recently announced the publication of three new industry technical standards that provide cable ops with new reliability tools to ensure, measure and improve the customer experience. These recommended practices are the first in a planned series of standards designed to provide a common method to verify the health of digital cable networks.
Developed by SCTE’s HFC Management Subcommittee (HMS), the SCTE 168 standards describe a framework to manage network components end-to-end by providing information to operators. This data will allow monitoring of network performance with the aim of making multimedia over IP, QAM, ASI and other network elements visible throughout the signal chain, from headend to customer.
Jim Welch, senior consulting engineer at IneoQuest (www.ineoquest.com), spoke with BGR recently about this standardization process. He participates on the subcommittee, and reports that the process started a few years ago, and remains ongoing. Various other vendors were involved, as well as operators including Comcast and TimeWarner.
The three announced standards are:
- SCTE 168-4 2010 Recommended Practice for Transport Stream Verification Metrics. This Recommended Practice provides a common methodology for defining the measurement points and "quality" metrics of interest in digital cable networks that impair the compressed multimedia (video/audio/data) quality.
- SCTE 168-6 2010 Recommended Practice for Monitoring Multimedia Distribution Quality. The scope of this Recommended Practice document is to provide background and discussion on Multimedia Management (MMM) system requirements to assist the cable operator with MMM deployment design tradeoffs and provide guidance and recommendations on several topics related to the deployment of MMM systems. These recommendations are based on the experiences of the participating system operators and vendor companies.
- SCTE 168-7 2010 Recommended Practice for Transport Stream Verification in an IP Transport Network. This document describes the protocols within the IP network and the possible IP layer causes of media impairments but does not provide metrics that correlate specific IP failures to media impairments. Industry-accepted metrics have been provided for IP packet loss, delay and jitter.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited SCTE Standards Program will submit the standards to ANSI for approval as American National Standards. The three HMS 168s are available by clicking on the Standards tab at www.scte.org.
Marc Todd, president and CEO at IneoQuest, also chatted with BGR about the published standards. He says that operators like Comcast and TWC, along with the vendors on the subcommittee, worked hard in these efforts especially because they wanted to see a cohesive strategy and recommendations for the shear volume of video that is transported over modern cable nets. Todd points out that the biggest factor in the standards is not just pure metrics, but ultimately, what they mean to the subscriber experience.
IneoQuest announced that it is the first to provide end-to-end product solutions that incorporate program availability, a key performance indicator for video distribution as described in SCTE 168-6 2010. Using program availability as a standard measurement, ops can monitor and report on delivery network performance and device reliability for QoS improvements, operational cost control and SLA management. IneoQuest reports that until now there hasn’t been a method to consistently assess that the subscriber viewing expectations were being met at each and every delivery point within the network. Having a program-centric methodology allows providers to improve QoS while addressing subscribers’ demands for higher QoE.
Laura Hamilton is editor-in-chief at BGR. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.