Cable TV channel programming is generated by headend equipment and distributed over coaxial wiring to receiving devices such as a TV or set top box. The digital headend may be as simple as an amplifier that increases the TV signal strength so that commercial cable TV content can reach in-house receivers, or as complex as a commercial cable TV system with encoders and modulators for each in-house TV channel. The channel content might be encrypted or “in the clear”. Channels are encrypted to prevent recording or access by unauthorized devices. When the programming is encrypted, viewing TV channels requires a set-top box or other authorized device, to decrypt the signal for viewing. If the TV signals are in the clear, then consumer TVs are capable of viewing the cable TV channels without use of a set top box. In the clear cable distribution networks are often referred to as clear QAM “quam” networks.
Commercial Cable TV providers encrypt their programming and provide customers with set top boxes to decrypt and access the channels. When a provider’s set top box is required for each TV, your in-house cable TV system is an extension of the commercial cable TV provider’s network. Some properties are given permission to install equipment that will convert an encrypted cable distribution network to an in-the-clear network. In this case the set top box is not required.
Many hotels in the United States decrypt and then re-encrypt channel content from cable or satellite providers using Pro-Idiom technology before distributing the channel to the guest TV. Many hospitality TV networks in the USA use Pro-Idiom encryption technology. TV’s made specifically for the USA hospitality industry support Pro-Idiom. Private IPTV networks work in a similar fashion but utilize IP based encryption technology. Channels can be added to either of these networks using the existing headend equipment to encrypt and distribute the private channel, or when allowed by the STB, inserted directly into the coax or IPTV distribution system. In addition to clear QAM networks, West Pond leverages this technology to support adding channels to to Linear IPTV and Pro-Idiom networks as well. These topics will be discussed in detail in a future post of this blog.
In-house “in the clear” or “clear QAM” digital cable TV systems are common in stadiums, health care facilities, some senior living centers, and other venues where many TVs are enabled via a single account with the commercial cable TV provider. Adding channels to these networks does not require any specific cooperation with the cable TV provider and as such is the easiest technology to install and provides the most flexibility with regard to the number of channels you can insert. All West Pond Enterprises FLexStream MX products support the creation of, or channel additions to, clear QAM networks .
The first step in identifying what technology you need is to identify the technology you have. Below is a description of common in-house cable TV systems. Later we will describe expansion and maintenance options for each.
Chapter Two: What kind of in-house Cable TV network do you have?
Chapter 3: The basics of In-house Cable TV distribution networks (coming soon)
Determine what type of in-house TV system you have:
In-House Commercial Cable TV
In this case, the in-house system is simply an extension of a commercial Cable TV provider’s network. Cable TV set top boxes, provided by the cable TV provider, are required at each TV. This type of solution is common to small hotels, senior living facilities, apartments, and businesses. Residents may have individual contracts with the provider or they may be aggregated to one contract managed by the property manager.
Re-Encrypted In-House Cable TV
Encrypted content provided by a commercial cable or satellite provider is decrypted and then re-encrypted before being distributed throughout the facility. Often property owned equipment is used to perform this function, though the equipment may be provided or leased to the property by the content provider. Specially equipped TVs or STBs are used to decrypt the content at each display. This type of solution is commonly used for hotels. In the USA the predominant encryption technology for coax wiring is called Pro-Idiom.
Unencrypted In-House Cable TV
This could be analog TV, digital (Clear QAM) TV, or terrestrial (antenna) TV. In all cases the TV is connected directly to the coax wiring. The content may be provided by a commercial cable TV provider without encryption, provided by a commercial cable TV or satellite provider and decrypted, or collected from a variety of sources and converted to cable TV onsite. These solutions are common to stadiums, senior living facilities, hotels (analog TV), prisons, and other venues where a large number of TVs are deployed.
Fiber TV, often referred to as Fiber to the home, exists in a number of configurations. If a fiber line is provided to your property by the cable operator, but the distribution within the property is coax wiring, then this architecture falls into one of the three categories above. A, B, or C. If the fiber runs to the residents apartment, without first converting to coax, this is a fiber installation.
If it is none of the above, perhaps your source is IPTV:
IPTV comes in many flavors. The simplest definition is that IPTV delivers TV programming over internet protocol transports rather than traditional cable TV (MPEG) transports. IPTV comes in two types, on demand (pull) and linear (push). If your TV or set top box does not connect to coax wire, but uses an Ethernet or WiFi connection, you have a form of IPTV. In some cases IPTV installations use the in-house cable network to create an IP network. In this case the coax wire leads to a Cable Modem/set top box and the Cable Model/Set Top box is likely providing Internet access to other devices via WiFi or Ethernet.
On Demand IPTV
On demand, or pull, IPTV is very common for consumers. If you watch TV using a media player, such as a Roku box, you are using on demand IPTV. Hulu, AppleTV, and other App based TV services fall into the on demand category. These systems “pull” the TV content from an internet source and display it on a single TV. If you have a 100 suite hotel and each room is watching this type of TV, you will need enough internet bandwidth to simultaneously download 100 AV streams, approximately 500 Mb/s, from your Internet Service Provider. Newer video compression technology is reducing the bandwidth required for internet transmission of video.
Linear, or push, IPTV uses network technology to carry each channel on a multicast IP stream. The IP network carrying the IPTV could be fiber, copper Ethernet, or even coax wiring. While some hospitality TVs have native support for this technology, consumer televisions do not without the use of an external Set Top box. These are typically professionally installed and managed systems.