Cox announced that they are deploying a switched digital video (SDV) network in their Northern Virginia/suburban Washington D.C. market. The high bandwidth demands of VOD and HD are impacting cable operators, making the migration to switched digital video for HFC powered networks inevitable. SDV only delivers the channels (or streams) that are in use to any given subscriber, whereas a legacy cable HFC network delivers every channel all the time to every subscriber’s home. The reductions in bandwidth requirements are dramatic. IPTV utilizes a SDV architecture as well.
The competitive implications of this move are interesting. SDV has commonly been seen as providing a potential competitive advantage to IPTV operators, because it makes channel capacity much more flexible and even unlimited (in theory at least). IPTV operators were seen as having the potential to offer much more flexible channel line ups than their competitors, providing subscribers as much or as little content choice as desired (the reality of the situation is that IPTV operators have been unable or unwilling to deliver on this advantage for many reasons, but that’s the subject for another day). This move by Cox may be a leading indicator for the cable industry as a whole. Cox also announced they intend to deploy SDV in many more markets soon, including Phoenix, AZ. This move to SDV by cable operators may negate a key IPTV competitive weapon before it ever really got a chance to inflict any pain.