What Does the New 10G Cable Infrastructure Mean for 8K?
Guest blog by JR Walden, CTO, and Thomas Larsen, SVP of Government & Public Relations at Mediacom
The cable industry is busy upgrading its infrastructure to add more fiber and increase the neighborhood networking speed from 1 Gbps to 10 Gbps. This capability is needed to meet anticipated bandwidth demands from 8K, VR, gaming, and an increasing number of connected devices in the home. A year ago, Mediacom Communications, the 5th largest cable operator in the United States, conducted one of the most ambitious technical trials in its history. This was the unveiling of a 10G smart home in Ames, Iowa. The event showcased how the multi-gigabit upload and download speeds of the 10G platform will be able to power the ultra-connected home of the future.
Today, many communities already allow consumers to select a broadband service with up to 1 Gbps download speeds. While such speeds may be sufficient for households looking to stream 8K, VR or gaming content, plus power other Internet-connected devices, the demand for bandwidth from these homes is expected to continue to increase. Since it takes time to install broadband capacity, cable operators have already begun to upgrade to the higher capacity network.
At its core, 10G is a powerful, capital-efficient technology breakthrough that will ramp up from the 1-gigabit offerings of today to speeds of 10 gigabits per second and beyond in the coming years.
While the 10G infrastructure has started to be rolled out, widespread commercial services are not yet available. To test the capabilities of this new network, Mediacom teamed up with CableLabs, the industry’s R&D arm, and The Internet & Television Association (NCTA). The Mediacom 10G smart home was the very first field trial of the 10G platform anywhere in the United States. This trial included the rollout of 10G to a neighborhood in Ames, Iowa along with a specially-equipped smart home.
The Future Smart Home
In order to simulate the types of experiences the 10G platform will make possible, Mediacom installed over 80 internet-enabled devices within the smart home. Many of these were bandwidth-intensive applications including stunning 8K footage shot by Mystery Box streamed over a Vecima CDN server to a Samsung QLED Smart 8K Ultra-High-Definition television inside the smart home.
The roughly 16-minutes of unique content that Mediacom displayed was shot in 8K at 60 frames per second using either a RED Weapon 8K camera or RED Monstro 8K camera. Content feature scenes from Bulgaria, Morocco, and Peru captured by the creators and innovators at Mystery Box. This content was then encoded using High-Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) at 7,680 x 4,320 resolution using High Dynamic Range format HDR10+, Profile B.
Mystery Box’s 8K content was streamed in a loop across the 10G platform from a Vecima edge server to a 10G cable modem that ran a “pre-DOCSIS 4.0” protocol that could handle the high data rates. From the modem, an ethernet or HDMI connection delivered the 8K video a 75″ Q900 QLED Smart 8K UHD TV from Samsung located inside the smart home at a peak bitrate of 173 Mbps and 66.1 Mbps on average.
Video playback looked great with no buffering – even with 70+ other devices connected in the smart home. Only one high-bit rate encode was used for the 8K content (no ladder needed).
These extremely high bit rates of nearly 200 Mbps definitely pushed the limits of the television’s IP connection. By comparison, YouTube streams 8K content today at only 20 to 50 Mbps and this is for 30 frames per second. Still, Mediacom was able to successfully demonstrate how consumers using 10G will be able to get access to any content they could imagine at amazing resolution and quality.
Additional items showcased in the Mediacom 10G Smart Home demonstrated cutting edge technology and applications that are changing the way we live, learn, work and play, including:
- Alarm.com exhibited award-winning home automation functionality that greatly enhances security and efficiency.
- CableLabs presented holographic 3D images through a Looking Glass light field display that could be seen without the need for glasses or headwear.
- Healium harnessed the power of virtual and augmented reality to improve mental fitness.
- Iowa Chill explored the innovation driving the rapidly expanding eSports revolution.
- UnityPoint Health connected patients with doctors using the latest telemedicine solutions.
- Zestful Kitchen created delicious recipes using state-of-the-art kitchen appliances and fixtures.
Over the last year, Mediacom has continued to operate the Ames, Iowa neighborhood as a test bed for its 10G platform.