Internet protocol (IP, not to be confused with “intellectual property”) technology is what makes the Internet work. Conversationally, it’s a catchall term that comprises the technical specifications and software solutions that make email, Web content and broadband services possible.  

Technically, IP is the “language” that Internet-connected machines and services use to talk to each other, and the set of rules that define how data is transmitted and received. In general, “protocols” govern things like packet size, how errors are corrected, and what to do when a particular transmission path becomes inaccessible.  

By embracing IP technologies, cable providers eventually can deliver all cable services – linear programming networks, on-demand content, interactive program guides and new applications – through their own Internet clouds.  

Important distinction: “IP” is not the same as “on the Web.” Put another way, going all-IP does not mean that cable providers are putting their services onto the public Web. Rather, they are adopting IP-based technologies for their own managed distribution networks.      

The industry thinking goes like this: Now that we’re going all-digital, we can go all-IP. All-digital was made possible by: 1) the introduction of standard definition digital services in the mid-90s; 2) cable modems and broadband data services in the late ‘90s; and 3) voice-over-IP telecommunications services in the early ‘00s.  

It is the broadband and cable modem “side of the house” that is the foundation for all-IP. From here on, a big part of the mission will be to gradually transition all technical and operational channels to that way of doing things.  

A full all-IP transition will take a while. A decade is an aggressive bet. Why? Cable distribution networks typically allocate considerably fewer digital channels to broadband and IP. HDTV is a much bigger user of bandwidth capacity and traditional digital video currently uses different techniques than IP to get from source to destination.  

Plus, until recently, there wasn’t a real market or technological need for more than two or three channels dedicated to broadband and data services. Today cable is seeking to take advantage of the increasing innovation and decreasing costs of delivering all video services via IP.    

The transition has begun and as it occurs every aspect of television delivery will change, as will the ways by which we do our jobs.

Along the way, new business and marketing opportunities will emerge. Rightfully, the biggest beneficiaries will be cable customers, who will benefit from new content, devices, applications and, overall, a better cable experience.
—Leslie Ellis, Senior Technology Advisor, CTAM  


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