Light Reading

2008 Top Ten: Comcastic Moments

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
12/29/2008
50%
50%

As we've come to expect, 2008 was not a year of treading water for Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK). With a hand in everything from Internet "throttling" to Docsis 3.0, here are our picks for the Top 10 “Comcastic Moments” of the year:

10. Tuning adapter early adopter
Comcast has been the least aggressive with switched digital video (SDV), but it was among the first MSOs to deploy tuning adapters when it introduced the devices in its Cherry Hill, N.J. market. (See Comcast Tunes Up SDV Tuning Adapters .)

Tuning adapters allow inherently one-way CableCARD capable digital TVs, and some stand-alone TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) DVRs, to carry on two-way communication with the cable operator network. The devices make sure only the necessary information and channels are sent and they conserve MSO bandwidth.

Tuning adapters aren’t expected to become a mass market item but they are a big hit with the boisterous TiVo crowd. But using them should breathe some life into those stodgy one-way CableCARD devices and help Comcast avoid some SDV-related FCC fines that have already hit the respective bows of Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and Cox Communications Inc. . (See FCC Levies More SDV-Related Fines and FCC Dings TWC Over SDV .)

9. Waiver denied, denied, denied!
After the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) denied Comcast’s request for a special waiver on low-end digital boxes with integrated security multiple times, it was the court’s decision to turn a deaf ear on the purported plight of nation’s largest MSO. (See Comcast Denied Set-Top Waiver (Again).)

Those repeated denials have since put Comcast on a collision course with simple (and somewhat controversial) security-free, one-way Digital Terminal Adapters… and you’ll read more about that a bit further down.

8. Comcast does CES
After the cable industry complained bitterly that it had not been well represented at the annual gadgetfest in Vegas, it finally had its opportunity when Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts took center stage as cable's first CES keynoter. (See CES: Roberts Declares Open Season.)

As expected, he spent much of his time talking up tru2way, the new name for the OpenCable Platform, but Comcast also came to the show bearing some real CE-related news, led by a new “portable” DVR/set-top combo it’s offering in conjunction with Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC), a big “Project Infinity” content initiative, and an Web-fed video hub called Fancast. (See Comcast, Panasonic Unveil Portable DVR and Comcast Launches 'Project Infinity'.)

7. A TiVo tilt
Although the reviews have been less than stellar, Comcast and TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) at long last introduced a Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)-made box with the TiVo service on board in the MSO’s New England division. (See Comcast to Kick Off Boston TiVo Party.)

So it only took about three and a half years from that deal to go from paper to deployment. Who said working in the U.S. cable set-top environment is difficult?

But now that the hard part is out of the way (on the Moto platform, anyway), deployments should start to expand next year, with Chicago evidently on deck. (See TiVo Still Seeking Cable Payoff and Chi-Town Bound?)

6. Get yer tru2way TVs!
Comcast customers in Denver and Chicago become the first to get their mitts on new tru2way-powered digital televisions from Panasonic that can pump in interactive digital cable services, including VoD, without a separate set-top box. (See Denver, Chicago First to Get Tru2way TVs and Tru2way TVs Hit Denver.)

The debut of tru2way TVs marked a huge step forward in a cable retail project that has been years in the making and full of enough controversy and head-butting with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) to fill the innards of a Circuit City store -- one that is still open, that is. (See Two-Way Battle Reaches FCC.)

Panasonic and Comcast showed the world it can be done. But will consumers care?

5. Doing DTAs
For months, Comcast had been talking about its plans to reclaim valuable analog spectrum using simple digital terminal adapters (DTAs) and redeploying that newfound spectrum toward Docsis 3.0, HDTV, and other advanced services.

This fall, Comcast introduced that strategy in portions of Oregon, the first of a massive number of Comcast markets that are expected to make similar transitions over the next 12 to 18 months. (See Comcast IDs First DTA Market and Comcast Seeds Digital Shift With Free Boxes.)

But, looking ahead, we’ll be keeping close tabs on how well those DTAs, which are being deployed sans security but could support content protection later via a firmware download, will continue to sidestep FCC set-tops requirements. What’s a Comcast-related story without a dose of regulatory controversy? (See Comcast's DTAs: Security Optional .)

4. Pivoting away, then waxing WiMax
Comcast was the first to sever ties with “Pivot,” the failed wireless joint venture with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), citing massive operational and intercompany complexities. (See MSOs Pivoting Away From Sprint JV.)

But Pivot's failure didn't stop Comcast from its pursuit of mobile wireless services. It, along with some of cable’s usual suspects later hooked up with Sprint again, this time through the Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) WiMax partnership. (See Cable Plays Clearwire Card.)

3. Ouch! My wrist hurts!
There was no fine, but the FCC, in a close 3-2 vote, ordered Comcast to cease the use of its existing bandwidth management platform by the year's end -- something the MSO had pledged it would do even before the vote took place. (See FCC Throttles Comcast, FCC Details Comcast Order , and FCC Puts Comcast on the Clock .)

Comcast made the decision under fire from pressure groups such as Free Press that claimed the MSO’s network management practices were discriminatory toward peer-to-peer applications. There are some vague penalties Comcast could face if it does not comply with the order (nothing has suggested otherwise to this point), but the FCC basically told Comcast to go ahead and continue doing what was already doing. Nice.

That teed up the next Comcast Internet service controversy: Should a cable MSO apply a public ceiling to its so-called “invisible” consumption cap?

Comcast CTO Tony Werner explained his company's approach to traffic limiting in this LRTV interview from June:



2. Wrapping up wideband
No one expects customers to pound the door down for top-tier Internet service, particularly in this economy, but Comcast’s deployments in 2008 showed a solid commitment to a technology that will give super-speedy fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP)-based services a run for their money – at least until cable operators start pulling fiber all the way to the home themselves in any scale. (See Comcast Wraps Up '08 Wideband Rollout .) Comcast subs in Baltimore; Chicago; Atlanta; Ft. Wayne, Ind.; Minneapolis/St. Paul; and portions of Oregon and Washington are all enjoying wideband bragging rights, and they're paying a premium, too.

1. Donning a byte-sized cap
Comcast announced what everyone already seemed to know: that the MSO would apply a 250-gigabyte threshold on “excessive” users. It wasn’t a metered service in the new tradition of MSOs such as Rogers Communications Inc. (NYSE: RG; Toronto: RCI), but it sure enraged a lot of people who viewed the new policy as a veiled attempt by the operator to keep Internet-fed video services in check. (See Comcast Draws the Line at 250GB and Rogers Takes Internet Meter to the Masses.)

Comcast, which runs an Internet video hub of its own called Fancast, insisted that the cap will apply to less than 1 percent of its high-speed Internet sub base, noting that median residential usage is 2 gigabytes to 3 gigabytes per month.

No, that didn’t calm people down either. But they’ve been partially comforted by news that the MSO is working on a Web-based meter that shows customers how much capacity they’ve consumed at any given time during the month.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Network architects aiming to upgrade their networks to support agile, open, virtualized services in the 21st century need to consider new criteria when choosing between technology suppliers.
Live Streaming Video
BTE 2015 Sponsor Keynote: HP
Dr. Prodip Sen, CTO, Network Functions Virtualization, HP
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat Demo

7|2|15   |   10:53   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Nicolas Lemieux demonstrates how Red Hat is driving innovation through open source communities.
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat's Approach to OpenStack Adoption

7|2|15   |   5:17   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Radhesh Balakrishnan outlines his company's open source strategy for both enterprises and telcos.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Goes Mobile With vEPC

7|2|15   |   1:12   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Gabriel Brown discusses results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade that shows a clear commitment by mobile operators to move quickly to virtual EPC deployment.
LRTV Custom TV
Making Business Sense of SDN

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Results of a Brocade-sponsored survey show that CSPs have a clear sense of SDN use cases but are wrestling with the business case. Sterling Perrin of Heavy Reading looks behind the numbers.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Will Be Here Sooner Than You Think

7|2|15   |   2:22   |   (0) comments


Forget the usual ten-year cycle for new technologies – NFV will be a core part of CSP networks in five years, based on results of a Brocade-sponsored survey, says Heavy Reading's Caroline Chappell.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Gains Traction With CSPs

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Roz Roseboro of Heavy Reading analyzes results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade showing that CSPs are getting serious about making the transition to the New IP era.
LRTV Custom TV
It's (Real) Time for Analytics

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Jim Hodges looks at how CSPs say they plan to use analytics to deploy new services in real time as part of The New IP, based on results of a survey sponsored by Brocade.
LRTV Documentaries
IoT in Action

6|30|15   |   1:39   |   (7) comments


Two co-workers discuss the benefits of IoT technology.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson Opens Up on OPNFV

6|30|15   |   14:16   |   (1) comment


Martin Bäckström, VP and head of industry area Datacom at Ericsson, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the emergence of OPNFV, the importance of standards and Ericsson's OPNFV plans.
LRTV Custom TV
NetNumber Founder Discusses NFV/SDN Impact on SP Networks

6|26|15   |   4:15   |   (0) comments


NetNumber Founder Doug Ranalli examines why SPs need a new network infrastructure for service agility. While NFV and SDN are the tools, the old ways of thinking about signaling control are inhibitors. Doug provides his recommendations.
LRTV Custom TV
Orchestrating NFV vCPE Services Across Multivendor Networks

6|26|15   |   5:46   |   (0) comments


Nirav Modi provides an overview of vCPE, the fastest-growing NFV use case, showing how Cyan's Blue Planet orchestrates vCPE services across a multivendor infrastructure to rapidly deliver new managed services for business customers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE at LTE Summit Amsterdam 2015

6|26|15   |     |   (0) comments


As one of the leading global telecommunications providers, ZTE presented its cutting-edge technology at LTE World Summit 2015 in Amsterdam. On display at ZTE's booth were the latest R&D achievements in wireless, 5G development, HetNet, deep convergence of FDD and TDD, and RCS/IMD/iSDN/vCN.
Upcoming Live Events
September 16-17, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Who's Feeding Fiber to LinkNYC Hotspots?
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 6/29/2015
Colt to Jettison Ailing IT Business
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/30/2015
Eurobites: Activist Investor Takes Stake in AlcaLu
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 6/30/2015
What's in Your Office-in-a-Bag?
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 6/26/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Casa Systems has been going from strength to strength over the last couple of years. In 2013, it became the first vendor to ship an integrated CCAP device -- the ...
Cedrik Neike, SVP of Global Service Provider, Service Delivery, at Cisco, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about solving service provider customer problems in a virtualized, DevOps world, including multivendor support and the future of network procurement.
Cats with Phones