Midco to begin migration to IPTV within the next 5 years

Midco, a mid-size cable operator with business across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, plans to begin to migrate its video business to IP technology within the next five years.

“Video for us is still a very important and profitable product,” Jon Pederson, Midco’s CTO, told FierceCable. “And, as a matter of fact, we’re evaluating our options for the future, and expect to migrate to IPTV within the next five years. And what that will give us is the ability to offer some of these newer services that are coming out such as ultra high-def, high dynamic range, all sorts of things that require a little extra bandwidth.”

Pederson explained that Midco offers three main products: voice, video (TV) and broadband services. He said that the company’s video business is “just now starting to falter ever so slightly,” partly due to the growing popularity of over-the-top services like Netflix. Indeed, “75 percent of the traffic on the broadband side is video already, in terms of over the top providers,” he said.

But video and TV services are “still an extremely popular product” for Midco, Pederson said. “People are watching video like nobody’s business.”

As a result, the company is working to widen the capabilities of its network in order to provide faster broadband internet speeds alongside higher-quality video services that also require more bandwidth. Indeed, the company is nearing the end of its “Space” project, which has been ongoing for the past two years and is designed to retire Midco’s legacy, analog video services.

“That space that we gain [from retiring analog video services], that’s where we’re going to expand our broadband,” Pederson said. “So what you end up with is a broadband product and then digital video. Now, with the new technology coming on, such as 4K … we still have that space problem. So the way that we’re going to address that is that we’re going to run all the advanced features – 4K, high dynamic range, and all the other things that take more bandwidth – our goal is to run those on IPTV, which really is just using the internet for television.” 

Added Pederson: “That’s the end game. It will take a while to migrate to that,” because it will require updated set-top boxes in customers’ home as well as improvements to the headends in Midco’s network, among other upgrades.

So why will that migration take five years? “It’s a fundamental technology change and it’s important that you provide services that customers want, and you don’t burden them with a lot of technology changes, so we’ll still need to support a lot of our existing video service as we migrate into the new service,” Pederson explained. “And frankly we want to do it right.”

Pederson added that Midco’s move to IPTV services goes hand-in-hand with the company’s upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1 network technology. That upgrade, which will be rolled out commercially to a handful of Midco’s top markets by the end of this year, promises to create wider pipes the company can use to provide faster speeds and new services. “It uses space so much better,” Pederson said of DOCSIS 3.1.

Midco serves more than 330,000 customers in nearly 350 communities, and counts around 1,300 employees.

Related articles:
Cable operator Midco signs onto CableLabs’ Kyrio hub to roam onto Comcast, other Wi-Fi networks
Midco CTO: We’re on track to launch DOCSIS 3.1 in 4-5 largest cities by end of 2016
CableLabs rebrands NetworkFX spin-off into 'Kyrio'