Breakthrough Could Fuel Expansion in Developing Markets
In the IPTV market, bandwidth is everything. That's why Envivio's new 4Caster C4 HD is a big deal for telcos and IPTV service providers looking to deliver HD over DSL networks – the company says it has increased “measurable video quality” by 35 percent over previous generations of the encoder and reduced HD bitrate requirements for HD to less than 6 Mbps. That could open more doors for delivering IPTV content at HD resolutions.
Don’t look for Envivio to get an immediate toehold in established North American or Western European markets. Ian Locke, Envivio’s VP of global communications, admits that those will be tough nuts to crack. Instead, he expects to make gains in other markets worldwide, citing the need for so-called “three-screen” solutions. “We are still the only vendor to have a single platform that can generate content for mobile, Internet, and IPTV,” he tells HD Studio. “That’s much bigger for us in emerging countries – Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Southeastern Asia.”
What differentiates Envivio’s offerings from its competitors’ is largely its decision to leverage the capabilities of Intel’s processor architecture rather than engineering specifically for purpose-built signal-processing chips. As Intel’s Nehalem processors hit the market – incorporating some of the code libraries supplied by software partner Envivio – the horsepower available to Envivio’s codecs increased significantly. Compared to writing for digital signal processors (DSPs), “we’re getting the same, or more, processing power out of a general-purpose platform that has our encoder written into it,” Locke says. “To be honest, even though we’ve tried to build up a DSP engineering team, we’re fundamentally better with Intel-based hardware.”
Part of the key to success will be Envivio’s ability to adapt quickly to different markets with different formats and government regulations. For example, Locke notes that Envivio worked with Japan’s Mobile Broadcasting Corporation on a commercial mobile broadcast service using ISDB-T-compliant encoders, but the gear developed for that roll-out doesn’t work in Brazil because of minor differences in the mobile-TV standard. Envivio also has an early presence in China, where it supports that country’s Audio Video (coding) Standard, or AVS. For example, it supplied 80 4Caster encoders to China Central Television for IPTV service in Beijing before the 2008 Olympic Games got under way last year.
The 4Caster C4 HD is built around Envivio’s Extreme HD H.264 codec, which is tuned to maximize video quality at extremely low bitrates. It can directly transcode MPEG-2 and H.264 input or baseband HD-SDI, and eliminates the need for additional ingest equipment such as IRDs for satellite sources. It has dual ASI outputs and supports the ISDB-T standard for digital broadcasting.