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Comcast All-Service Gateways Go 'Headless'

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Arris Group Inc. and Pace plc are among the first vendors out of the chute with a new type of "headless" triple-play services gateway that's based on Comcast Corp.'s pre-integrated Reference Design Kit (RDK) software stack for IP-capable devices. (See Comcast's Set-Top Accelerator Gains Traction.)

The new class of hybrid QAM/IP boxes are headless in the sense that they don't handle the video rendering tasks that a "headed" gateway/set-top would. These gateways will use a mix of Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) and Wi-Fi to distribute video signals on the home network via IP to tablets, smart TVs and low-cost HD client boxes. They also support the operator's high-speed data and digital voice services.

Instead of deploying the device near the primary television, a headless gateway can be installed at the home's primary demarcation point, such as the basement, garage or side of the house. That could help the operator provide higher-performing signal to the home.

On Monday, Arris and Pace both unveiled such gateways that are based on Comcast's XG5 product specification and RDK software, which includes a tru2way middleware stack.

Arris, which is in the process of acquiring Motorola Mobility LLC's Home business, calls its XG5 product the MG2402. It's powered by the Intel Corp. Puma 6 MG Docsis 3.0 chipset, which can bond 24 downstream channels – enough to product downstream bursts of about 1Gbit/s. The device is also outfitted with 8 QAM channels to handle the operator's traditional MPEG-based digital video services. It's also equipped with a CableCARD (for legacy conditional access) and software-based security for IP video.

Pace's initial version of the XG5 uses Broadcom Corp. chipsets, including the BCM3128 receiver and BCM3335 transcoding hybrid IP gateway SoC.

Both products can support 802.11ac and MoCA 2.0, a platform that can handle up to 800Mbit/s over the home's coax network. The integrated Zigbee piece is for the operator's home automation/security services. The transcoding element can turn QAM video into IP streams that can be read and displayed by tablets, smart TVs and other devices hanging off the home network.

Comcast has not announced launch plans for this new class of gateway, but Arris SVP Derek Elder tells Light Reading Cable that the vendor expects field trials of the MG2402 to get under way this quarter and to reach volume shipments by the second half of 2013.

Pace and Arris are demonstrating their headless handiwork at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Why this matters
Comcast's XG5 represents U.S. cable's first big move into a headless server/client architecture designed to reduce capital costs by taking advantage of low-cost client boxes and consumer electronics gear such as iPads that can integrate traditional set-top functions.

The XG5 also emerges as the first gateway that will work with the Xi3, a new HD client device also based on the Comcast RDK. Pace and Humax Co. Ltd. are the first known makers of the Xi3. The XG5 can support local DVR storage through in internal hard drive or external eSATA drives, but the XG5 (along with the Xi3) is also a likely candidate for a network DVR that Comcast has under development and is testing in the Boston area. For more

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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User Rank: Light Sabre
1/11/2013 | 6:17:14 AM
re: Comcast All-Service Gateways Go 'Headless'
I can't find any mention of a single device that can play DLNA Premium Content.-á Can you name something that is actually for sale or expected to be available soon?-á Or is this still just a pipe dream?
Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/7/2013 | 10:28:44 PM
re: Comcast All-Service Gateways Go 'Headless'
The other big idea behind this is the notion of going set-top-free since these gateways can ship video directly to tablets and smart TVs. That's true with IP-devices that can hook into the home network, but some TVs will be working off these HD clients, which are still set-tops , just smaller and less expensive. JB
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