& cplSiteName &

Cable Defends Its SDV Crutch

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Even though few cable customers need tuning adapters to view switched digital video (SDV) channels, the devices have represented a flashpoint in the debate over proposed short-term "fixes" in the CableCARD rules.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) , in reply comments filed at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) late Monday, came out in defense of the tuning adapter, a discrete device used to help TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) boxes, and other inherently one-way CableCARD-based devices, access programs in a cable operator's switched video tier. The NCTA thinks those adapters -- made by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) -- are doing the job just fine.

But TiVo is making a big stink about tuning adapters, claiming the approach is a kludge that asks customers to attach another set-top. TiVo has proposed an alternative that it thinks is more elegant: an IP-based communications back-channel that would link the DVR with the cable operator's headend to set up the SDV sessions. (See TiVo, Cable Re-Spark SDV Debate .)

In its reply comments, the NCTA contends that it's demonstrated that tuning adapters work, and that the five largest US cable operators are already providing them free of charge.

It's more clear than ever that the tuning adapter market is a small (albeit vocal) one, as just more than 31,600 cable subscribers are using tuning adapters today to access SDV content, according to the NCTA. By comparison, the US cable industry has 43.5 million digital video subs. However, the number of consumers needing tuning adapters could rise significantly when Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) begins to deploy SDV aggressively this year and next. (See Comcast Getting Ready to Uncork SDV.)

The NCTA also argued that TiVo's IP back-channel proposal doesn't belong in this round of rulemaking. It's not necessarily against the idea, but suggests instead that the FCC move the topic into what's being called the "AllVid" notice of inquiry (NOI). AllVid could end up creating rules for all multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), and not just the cable industry. (See All About the FCC's AllVid and FCC Inches Towards Net-Agnostic Gateways.)

The NCTA likewise claimed that TiVo is pursuing an IP back-channel tailored to its needs so it can avoid having to make the kind of tru2way-compliant box that most major US MSOs are supporting. (See Comcast Closing Tru2way Gap .)

Does size matter?
The NCTA also tried to suppress TiVo's complaints regarding the size of the tuning adapter. TiVo claims that it was originally in favor of the tuning adapter because it thought the resulting device would be a small, out-of-the-way dongle, not a larger, set-top sidecar box.

The NCTA countered that tuning adapter shipments simply are not at high enough volume to justify the costs for Cisco and Moto to design new, smaller versions. The lobbying group also wondered why TiVo is lodging such a complaint in the first place, noting that the DVR pioneer actively markets a hard drive made by Western Digital Corp. (NYSE: WDC) that's about the same size as Cisco's tuning adapter. Here's the evidence NCTA supplied to the FCC to make its point:

The NCTA also shot down a Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) suggestion that cable provide more technical support for retail devices, claiming there is no need for the FCC to impose a "new open-ended rule" and that such responsibility should be shared equally among MSOs and consumer electronics firms.

"If a retail device is not working," the NCTA said, "cable operators will ensure that the CableCARD is working, but the retail equipment is otherwise the responsibility of the customer and the device manufacturer, which should have its own technical support lines, firmware and software updates, set-up and troubleshooting procedures, and return or refund policies."

The FCC's proposed rules aim to remedy issues with the CableCARD regime as the commission gets ready to pursue the broader AllVid NOI. Only about 520,000 cable subs use retail "navigation devices," which include a limited number of set-tops from TiVo and Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) (via its acquisition of Digeo Inc.) and several digital TVs that are outfitted with CableCARD slots. (See Arris Digs Digeo and CableCARD Update .)

The FCC docket is expected to fill up with additional reply comments on this matter from TiVo and others with skin in the game. Light Reading Cable will follow up with a roundup of the arguments being made as the Commission prepares to vote on the proposed CableCARD rulemaking later this year.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to TelcoTV 2010, the telecom industry’s premier event for the exploration of a comprehensive entertainment convergence strategy, to be staged in Las Vegas, November 9-11. For more information, or to register, click here.

(2)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:31:08 PM
re: Cable Defends Its SDV Crutch

NCTA claims that Tuning Adapters work fine, though I've seen consumers report both sides of it-- some say they do indeed work fine, while others have reported trouble.  For the few of you out in the real world that actually use Tuning Adapters, where do you stand on this?  Are TAs okay, or should TiVo's IP pathway be considered in this round and not for the broader AllVid notice of inquiry at the FCC? JB

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:31:07 PM
re: Cable Defends Its SDV Crutch

They need to make changes NOW!

My experience with TWC in Austin, with a Cisco STA1520 has been less than adequate.

The tuning adapters work fine for maybe a day or two, and then they just stop working.  I need to call TWC and ask them to reset them.  The process to do this requires action on both thier end and mine, and can take more than an hour!


Last summer I lived in the Cincinnati area, and had Insight cable - never had a single problem with my cablecards.  Come to Austin, and TWC with SDV, and it's unbearable! 

I actually don't believe that the problem is with the tuning adapter architechture.  I believe that the problem lies with TWC, and either thier incompetence in setting up the architechture correctly, or more likely they are INTENTIONALLY fouling this up to try and push people to use thier boxes!

Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
Friday, October 28, 1:00PM EDT
Security: The Plusses and Minuses of Open Source Software
Nick Feamster, Acting Director, Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University
Wednesday, November 16, 1:00PM EST
SDN 101
John Isch, Practice Director, Network & Voice, Orange Business Services
Friday, November 18, 1:00PM EST
SDN & Open Source
Christopher W. Rice, Senior Vice President of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture and Design
Wednesday, November 30, 1:00PM EST
SDN & the Software Defined Data Center
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
OneAccess NFV Solutions

10|26|16   |   5:30   |   (0) comments

Antoine Clerget, CTO of OneAccess, discusses how his company has expanded its product line from enterprise-class routers to include a universal virtualized CPE as well as a suite of VNFs to help telco customers evolve to an NFV future.
LRTV Custom TV
The Journey Toward Carrier-Grade WiFi

10|26|16   |   3:39   |   (0) comments

In this Light Reading interview, Dave Sperling, CTO at Smith Micro Software and active participant of the WBA's policy working group, discusses the need for carrier-grade WiFi. Technical and business challenges slowing the fulfillment of this goal are addressed, as well as management strategies that will enable communication service providers to optimize end user ...
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE BBWF Highlights

10|26|16   |     |   (0) comments

At BBWF 2016, ZTE showed a broad range of innovative technologies that are kick-starting an ultrafast broadband journey.
LRTV Custom TV
Next-Generation Technology Beyond DOCSIS 3.1

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Liu Jianhua speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Hybrid Video Solutions to Change TV, Change Future

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Ian Locke speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei Future-Oriented Giga Coax Network

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Allen Wang speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei at SCTE 2016

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Alan Breznick of Light Reading and take a sneak peek at the Huawei booth at SCTE 2016.
LRTV Custom TV
Assuring Network Quality in a Rapidly Changing Environment

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

As the rate of change and complexity increases in agile networks, the importance of introducing DevOps methodologies for integrating active test and assurance solutions throughout the full service lifecycle becomes critical to ensure that customers are experiencing the service quality they demand. The industry landscape is changing, and software-based test and ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
A10 Networks on Service Providers' Industry Needs

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Light Reading's Steve Saunders hears how A10 enables service providers to accelerate, secure and optimize their application delivery to drive down costs, enhance service availability, and better respond to customer requirements, so they can improve customer satisfaction, monetize their network, and grow revenues.
LRTV Custom TV
New NFV Use Cases for Cable TV

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

A large number of NFV use cases are focused on the enterprise domain, looking at virtualization of customer-premises equipment (CPE). To date, there has been little focus on the use cases and business case for virtualization of the video content delivery networks required to deliver unicast and streaming video to consumers. Amdocs commissioned Analysys Mason to ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Meet the Future Workforce: New Faces, Expectations & Motivations

10|19|16   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

Millennials and their younger peers, Gen Z, expect more out of their network and more out of their work. Intel's Lynn Comp shares how the industry can prepare for this new generation of workers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE Global Services User Congress 2016 Highlights

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

ZTE held its 2nd Global Service User Conference in Dusseldorf on October 13-14. Representatives from network operators, leading industry analysts and ZTE senior expertsattended the event, exploring the best practice in managed services and the vision to transform network operations into the operations center of the future (OpCF) in the software-defined networking ...
Upcoming Live Events
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Attacks Have Major Internet Sites on the Ropes
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 10/21/2016
Trump: Dump AT&T/TW & Comcast/NBC
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 10/24/2016
Layer3 TV Comes to Town, Hints at Future
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 10/21/2016
T-Mobile: AT&T & TW Means Ma Bell Not Focused on Mobile
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/24/2016
Sprint: Revenue up 3%, Capex Will Rise Again
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/25/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
There's no question that, come 2020, 5G technology will turn the world's conception of what mobile networking is on its head. Within the world of 5G development, Dr. ...
Animals with Phones
'Oh, Were You Looking for This?' Click Here
'I was just playing some games...'
Live Digital Audio

A vital part of increasing the number of women in comms is transforming the ways companies can support and empower women. While progressive company policies that support both men and women in achieving work-life balance are a step in the right direction, creating a company culture that supports those policies can at times be more challenging.

During this show, we'll talk to Lynn Comp, Senior Director of Industry and Sales Enabling (ISE) in the Network Platforms Group at Intel, about why those challenges exist and how companies can overcome them. She'll provide insight into how Intel has worked to create a culture that supports work-life balance, and provide steps and guidance for other companies wishing to do the same. We will also leave plenty of time to get your questions answered live on the air.