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
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Sales Director of INIT on Plug & Play Switch Devices

9|19|14   |   3:21   |   (0) comments


INIT Italy uses both the Huawei S5700 and S7700 series switches for the campus LAN environment. Sales Director Andrea Curti says their company chose these Huawei devices over others because of their performance, flexible scalability and plug-and-play features.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Saudi Arabia Upgrades Vocational Training System

9|19|14   |   3:31   |   (0) comments


The Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) has 100,000 students, 150 government-owned institutions and oversees 1000 private institutes. The CIO of TVTC explains that Huawei devices have allowed them to manage multiple datacenters using just one software program, scientifically tracking the progress of students and teachers, saving them millions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Media Solutions Are Here to Stay

9|19|14   |   4:35   |   (0) comments


The current media revolution requires rapid upgrades in technology. New formats (HD, 3D, 4K etc.) and the subsequent explosion of file sizes demand sophisticated network and storage architecture. Social media and the multiple distribution channels require a robust asset management system. Gartner analyst Venecia Liu speaks about the current technological trends in ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Microgenesis on Huawei's Switches

9|19|14   |   3:57   |   (0) comments


Microgenesis is a solutions and system integrator company in the Philippines whose areas of expertise include data centers, networking and security products. In this video, Executive Director Jeffrey Choa talks to us about his customers needs and they benefit from using Huawei switches.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Network Solutions Help the Philippines Jump Ahead

9|17|14   |   2:59   |   (0) comments


In the past, the Philippines has under-invested in technology. Now, the CEO of Softshell talks about how Huawei products help the Philippines jump ahead as the economy improves.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
VCS Observation for Safer Cities in the Netherlands

9|17|14   |   5:20   |   (0) comments


Holland's VCS Observation has been operating for 22 years. Its main goal is to get cities safer. CEO Wim van Deijzen tells us some of the challenges his company faces and how Huawei is helping to overcome these challenges.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
A Conversation With Serbia's Ministry of Interior

9|17|14   |   4:38   |   (0) comments


At HCC 2014, the Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia talks to us about his projects and corporation with Huawei. Solutions like Safe City and E-Government and services like cloud computing are just some of the areas his department is interested in.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
IHS Analyst Discusses eLTE at CCW 2014

9|10|14   |   7:09   |   (0) comments


Thomas Lynch, associate director of critical communications at IHS Technology, talks about broadband in critical communications.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
TCAA on Huawei eLTE: A Broadband Solution for Mission-Critical Communications

9|10|14   |   2:29   |   (0) comments


At CCW2014 in Singapore, the TCCA's Phil Kidner talks about the importance of broadband data for critical communications.
LRTV Custom TV
Spotlight on Cisco: SDN for Optical Networks

9|8|14   |   9:27   |   (0) comments


Cisco's Greg Nehib talks OpenFlow and more on the 'Software-Defined Networking for Optical Networks' panel at the Big Telecom Event in June 2014.
LRTV Custom TV
Cisco's Evolved Programmable Network (EPN)

9|8|14   |   4:05   |   (0) comments


A look at the various demos Cisco showed at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event highlighting Cisco's EPN innovation and how SDN and NFV technologies are enabling a variety of new services.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Future of Ultra-Broadband, With Kevin Kelly (UBBF2014)

9|5|14   |   1:13   |   (1) comment


If you think the technological changes we've seen up to now are astounding, just wait until you see what the future has in store. Discuss upcoming breakthroughs with Kevin Kelly, Founding Executive Editor of Wired Magazine, at the Huawei Ultra-Broadband Forum on September 24.
Upcoming Live Events
October 29, 2014, New York City
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
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
Mosaik Solutions presents its 2014 maps of the wireless world in the US, including cable WiFi deployments, LTE network expansion and 600MHz auction boundaries.
Today's Cartoon
Vacation Special Caption Competition Click Here
Latest Comment
Hot Topics
Photos: Qualcomm Takes Over San Francisco
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 9/19/2014
Exclusive: Microwave Maven Exalt Is Cooked
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 9/22/2014
NFV & The Data Center: Top 10 Takeaways
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 9/18/2014
EMC Mulls Merger With HP or Dell – Reports
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 9/22/2014
Gigabit Nets Boost GDP, Says FTTH Council
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, 9/23/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed