Light Reading
Nick Thexton sees more pay-TV providers deploying thinner IP client devices in homes as the IP video transition picks up steam.

Cisco Exec: Thinner Pay-TV STBs Coming

Mari Silbey
1/14/2014
50%
50%

Unlike some of his colleagues, Nick Thexton doesn't see the traditional pay-TV set-top box going away. But he does see it getting thinner.

In a conversation with Light Reading at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, Thexton, CTO for Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s Service Provider Video Infrastructure group, declined to declare the death of the tried-and-tested set-top. He did, however, observe that pay-TV providers are starting to shift away from deploying set-tops with thick, embedded middleware stacks. While these boxes are still a significant part of the service equation, he noted, operators are also considering thinner STBs, or clients, now for video delivery.

"I think people's faith in the network is increasing," said Thexton. But, he added, "I think the client is important still."

As more video processing functions move into the network, some industry pundits have predicted that set-tops will go away altogether. But, at least in the near term, more providers are focused on installing high-powered media gateways in customer homes and linking them to thin-client IP set-tops.

There's also a set-top renaissance taking place in the retail market, thanks to the early success of over-the-top media streamers from Roku Inc. and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and the Chromecast HDMI streaming stick from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). Although these devices aren't built to support traditional cable services, cable operators are exploring how they can be used in conjunction with IP video delivery and cloud-based services. (See 5 TV Tech Trends Heading for CES and Alticast Primps for Vegas Spotlight.)

A fan of HDMI adapters, Thexton said he is starting to see customers get interested too. He noted that streaming sticks are capable of fully rendering an HTML5 user interface, and that the price point has improved since they were first introduced several years ago. As client hardware slims down, however, the main question that Thexton has is: Who should buy these devices? Should subscribers buy their own hardware or should operators continue to own the equipment and lease it to customers?

If nothing else, Thexton said he sees hardware as a token for service providers. Even if it has very little functionally, it would still extend the cable operator's brand into subscribers' homes, providing a badge of belonging and a way for consumers to promote that they're "part of the club."

In a similar vein, Thexton touched on the tension between service providers and smart TV manufacturers. He described the relationship between the two as "not formalized yet," saying that both sides need each other but their interests don't completely align. He noted that each party still wants to own the user experience.

Given all of the market variables, the choices ahead for operators are numerous. Service providers can move nearly everything into the cloud; they can invest in media gateways combined with multiple IP clients; and they can employ a mixture of over-the-top and managed video services.

Only one thing is certain: There won't be a single set-top form factor going forward. But there will likely be more thin clients from service providers in the days ahead.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

(7)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
albreznick
50%
50%
albreznick,
User Rank: Blogger
1/17/2014 | 6:15:08 PM
Re: STBs survive
OK, Greg. Thanks. Let me ask you another question too. What do you think the deployment split will be between thin client boxes and thick client boxes in, say, five years?   
GregW333
50%
50%
GregW333,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/16/2014 | 7:11:53 PM
Re: STBs survive
depends how "thin".  Less than $50 is my guess.  
albreznick
50%
50%
albreznick,
User Rank: Blogger
1/16/2014 | 5:43:56 PM
Re: STBs survive
More love and less hate, eh? Or rather, less to love and hate. How low do you think the price for thin clients could go?  
GregW333
50%
50%
GregW333,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/15/2014 | 1:51:27 PM
Re: STBs survive
It would appear to me that the STB "functionality" is required some where.  The L-H relationship won't go away but with a $50ish thin STB it will be lessened :-)
albreznick
50%
50%
albreznick,
User Rank: Blogger
1/15/2014 | 11:53:35 AM
Re: STBs survive
Sounds like you think STBs aren't going away either, Greg. So will that love-hate relationship ever change?
GregW333
50%
50%
GregW333,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/15/2014 | 8:58:49 AM
Re: STBs survive
Thin STBs make sense since as we all know there's a love-hate relationship with SPs and the CAPEX intensive STBs.  STBs have always been an unrealized trojan horse to control the home.  Thick or thin this is still true.

I've never liked embedding STB functionality in to the TV for the simple reason that the upgrade cycle for TVs is 2-3x that of a STB.  

For Cisco, this makes a lot more sense than their previous "high-end" only STB strategy.   See why...    http://greywhalemanagement.blogspot.com/2013/02/high-end-only-stb-vendor-is-this.html
albreznick
50%
50%
albreznick,
User Rank: Blogger
1/14/2014 | 4:17:31 PM
STBs survive
So Thexton sees a future where traditional STBs continue in some homes while others get uber media gateway boxes combined with thin, little IP set-tops. And he also sees a future for media streaming sticks. To me, the big question is what the mix will look like. Will it be mostly sticks or thin clients or the traditional STBs? Any thoughts out there on that?      
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Rick Talbot, Principal Analyst, Current Analysis

10|31|14   |   2:12   |   (0) comments


At the NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, Rick Talbot shared his positive feedback about the holistic and open approach that Huawei adopts for SDN and NFV. He also found the open sharing at the event valuable as it features different perspectives from Huawei experts, telecom operators, industry analysts as well as security experts.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With David Snow, Principal Analyst, Current Analysis

10|31|14   |   2:24   |   (0) comments


David Snow talked about his understanding of Huawei and its SoftCOM strategy at the NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, saying that Huawei's wide approach combining IT and CT expertise, introducing big data and analytics into solutions and contributing to the OpenStack community particularly resonate with him and make the company stand out in the industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Roz Roseboro, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

10|31|14   |   3:13   |   (0) comments


Roz Roseboro commented on Huawei's data center capabilities and NFV solutions at the NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, saying that in addition to covering all three key domains of compute, storage and networking, the company also emphasizes the importance of management capabilities and professional services, which are essential in making NFV a reality.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Michael Howard, Co-founder & Principal Analyst, Infonetics Research

10|31|14   |   5:25   |   (0) comments


Michael Howard talked about SDN, NFV, and OpenStack adoption at Huawei's NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014. Particularly, he pointed out that Virtual Enterprise CPE is the top NFV use case that operators plan to invest in over 2014 and 2015 to deliver new enterprise services through virtualized functions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Jerry Caron, Senior Vice President, Current Analysis

10|31|14   |   3:11   |   (0) comments


At Huawei's NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, Jerry Caron from Current Analysis said that orchestration and management are key to realizing SDN and NFV for global carriers, and the approach that Huawei is taking, with its FusionSphere Cloud OS at the core, is in the right direction to address the challenges.
LRTV Documentaries
Broadband Battles

10|31|14   |   01:39   |   (0) comments


This year's Broadband World Forum featured a number of show floor battles focused on access gear, components and coffee.
Jonestown
Mobile Backhaul: Going to the Dark Side?

10|30|14   |   2:26   |   (1) comment


Heavy Reading's Patrick Donegan shares his view on a dark trend that bubbled up at Light Reading's annual backhaul conference in NYC.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With CEO of SwitchCom

10|30|14   |   4:13   |   (0) comments


SwitchCom, an IT company based in Angola, recommends a variety of Huawei solutions and hardware to their customers in the energy industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With Ethiopia's Ministry of Water Irrigation & Energy

10|30|14   |   4:08   |   (0) comments


Gosaye Mengistie of Ethiopia's Ministry of Water Irrigation & Energy discusses the collaboration with Huawei in that country.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview with Dongfang Electronics Corporation

10|30|14   |   5:46   |   (0) comments


Dongfang Electronics Corporation, headquartered in Chengdu, China, is one of China's largest manufacturers of power generators and contractors of power station projects.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview with Zimbabwe's Customers

10|30|14   |   3:31   |   (0) comments


Representatives of Zimbabwe's Ministry of Power and Development discuss the energy needs of their country as well as new areas of improvement due to enhanced ICT capabilities.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With Colbún Chile

10|30|14   |   4:29   |   (0) comments


In Chile, an aging energy infrastructure was in dire need of a modern update. Claudio Valenzuela of Colbún discusses how Huawei's ICT solutions continue to provide crucial information to improve the grid and how an in-country engineer is a cricial asset.
Upcoming Live Events
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
May 30, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
WhoIsHostingThis.com presents six of the world's most extreme WiFi hotspots, enabling the most epic selfies you can imagine.
Hot Topics
Microsoft's Skype Embraces WebRTC on IE
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 10/27/2014
FTC Slaps AT&T With Throttling Lawsuit
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 10/28/2014
Wheeler Gets Down With OTT
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 10/29/2014
China's MVNOs Hit the Wall
Robert Clark, 10/27/2014
Let's Not Kill SDN & NFV With Silos
Francois Locoh-Donou, Senior VP, Global Products Group, Ciena, 10/28/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed