& cplSiteName &

Comcast: DTAs Can Be 'Force-Tuned'

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
7/6/2010
50%
50%

Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) devices have no built-in return-path capabilities, making them unable to directly access video on demand (VoD) or other "two-way" cable services, but it turns out the simple channel-zappers can receive network instructions to "force-tune" to a particular channel.

And that could spark a debate over whether the devices should be viewed as "advanced" in the eyes of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) , as it chews on newly proposed CableCARD rules.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), in reply comments submitted last week, argued that this force-tuning capability -- already used to deliver Emergency Alert System (EAS) messages to DTAs -- doesn't make those inherently one-way devices interactive or somehow advanced.

How the FCC ends up viewing DTA force-tuning is important because the Commission is considering a blanket exemption for HD-capable versions. That would give MSOs the green light to buy and deploy them without worrying about obtaining separate waivers to sidestep the integrated set-top security ban of July 2007. (See FCC Inches Towards Net-Agnostic Gateways and FCC Chews on HD-DTA Exemption .)

MSOs such as Comcast, which has already deployed millions of standard-definition DTAs for its Project Cavalry analog reclamation initiative, are eager to use the HD-DTA as a low-cost option (unit pricing is expected to be less than $50 when volumes ramp up). (See Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan , Cable ONE Seeks $50 HD Box, and Comcast Lights Up DTA Encryption .)

However, the FCC, which has already awarded several waivers for SD-DTAs with integrated security, could forgo any blanket HD-DTA exemptions if it decides that the hi-def versions are "advanced" boxes. Key to the SD-DTA waivers was the notion that they are limited, one-way digital-to-analog video converter boxes that don't support traditional DVR services, come with native Internet connections, or support other relatively sophisticated features. (See Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan , FCC Believes in Evolution-ary DTAs, and Huawei Gets Box Break at the FCC .)

CableOne , still the only MSO to get a waiver to use HD-DTAs, has already argued that HD services should no longer be considered advanced because they represent critical competitive table stakes. (See Scoop! Cable ONE Makes HD-DTA Picks , and HD No Longer an 'Advanced' Service?)



The force-tuning issue comes up because Comcast acknowledged, in its comments, that the capability is in DTAs, for EAS delivery, and "could theoretically be extended to other services." But that doesn't mean the DTAs are two-way devices, the MSO argued, because the boxes themselves "cannot function as interactive devices."

As an example of one of those other services, Comcast has been asked if the iPad-driven Xfinity remote control, demonstrated at The Cable Show in May, could work with DTAs. Technically speaking, the app could be mapped to the boxes, but Comcast hasn't made any formal plans to do that. (See To Xfinity... & Beyond!.)

"This service is being developed for our two-way digital set-top boxes, not for DTAs," Comcast told the FCC. It might be possible to adapt the app for DTAs, but that "would require significant new standardization and development work."

Even if such work was done, Comcast holds that the DTA wouldn't count as an interactive device, since customers would still have to send requests to the headend via a discrete device (e.g., an iPad) using a separate Internet connection.

"This would be analogous to the old one-way converter boxes that could receive pay-per-view content if the customer placed an order for the content via a phone call to the cable operator. It cannot be credibly argued that this made the converters 'two-way,'" Comcast said.

The FCC isn't expected to vote on the new CableCARD rule changes until later this year, but some early comments have come out against any further agency dispensation for DTAs with baked in security.

For example, Beyond Broadband Technology LLC (BBT) , a cable consortium backed by some Tier 2 and Tier 3 MSOs, which has developed a downloadable security platform, has argued that one-way boxes can "directly or indirectly do essentially everything a two-way device can do, such as provide an electronic program." BBT also questioned the historic "no-DVR" restriction on DTAs, holding that it could be circumvented with a whole-home recording device or a "modular DVR add-on device." (See Policy Watch: TiVo, Cable Trade SDV Barbs and BBT Notches First Install .)

Public Knowledge claims the HD-DTA exemption would undermine the FCC's "common reliance goals" to help develop a retail market. Comcast (and the bulk of the US cable industry) has already poked a hole in that argument, noting that common reliance is already achieved because more than 21 million CableCARD-equipped boxes have been deployed. (See CableCARD Update .)

Although there's no indication that consumer electronics firms intend to sell DTAs directly to consumers, Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC), which favors the HD-DTA exemption, has asked that the FCC require cable to adopt standards that could underpin a retail market for such boxes by July 2011.

Comcast said it's willing to work with Panasonic and the rest of the cable industry on DTA retail efforts, "but does not support any new 'common reliance' mandate in this area."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

(3)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Jeff Baumgartner
50%
50%
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:30:44 PM
re: Comcast: DTAs Can Be 'Force-Tuned'


The ability to force-tune a one-way cable device sounds pretty close in function to the way Moto- and Cisco-made Tuning Adapters allow CableCARD-based TiVo and Moxi one-way boxes to access a cable operator's switched digital video channels.  I suppose Tuning Adapter was a decidedly friendlier name than going with something like the "SDV Force-Tuner". If so, I can't see why DTAs can't access switched channels, too, save for all that icky integration work that would probably be required. JB  


 


 

Cooper10
50%
50%
Cooper10,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:30:41 PM
re: Comcast: DTAs Can Be 'Force-Tuned'


I suppose one could also argue that a pager is the equivalent of an iPhone - after all, a pager can receive a message from the network, and the person receiving the page can then go to a telephone and return that message, so how is a pager any different from an iPhone?


The logic of this argument strains all credibility...

Jeff Baumgartner
50%
50%
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:30:37 PM
re: Comcast: DTAs Can Be 'Force-Tuned'


I think that's part of the reason why Comcast is addressing that now and being  proactive on it... because it would be real tough to convince anyone (even at the FCC) that force-tuning would make a DTA two-way, but you gotta figure that someone  (hello, CEA) is going to try on that argument during this proceeding. JB

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 Interviews
ETSI's CTO Talks NFV, 5G & NGP

12|5|16   |   09:45   |   (0) comments


Adrian Scrase, CTO at standards body ETSI, talks about the various initiatives and specifications developments related to NFV, 5G and NGP (next-generation protocols) that will underpin next-gen networks.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Korn Ferry Consultant: How to Find, Cultivate & Be the Best Talent

11|30|16   |   4:10   |   (1) comment


Erin Callaghan, a managing consultant for Korn Ferry Futurestep, shares strategies for companies to improve how they recruit and for women to ensure they don't get lost in the pipeline.
LRTV Custom TV
We Can Make the World More Sustainable

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


GeSI is a global e-Sustainability Initiative organization bringing together 40 big multinational companies around the world. According to GeSI's report, information and communication technology can make the world more sustainable. Luis Neves, chairman of GeSI, shared with us his opinion at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
Finding a New Way to Engage Customers & Drive Revenue

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


Mobile revenues are declining. Digicel, a player in the Caribbean telecommunications/entertainment space, has found a new way to engage customers and drive revenue. John Quinn, CTO of Digicel, shared with us its story at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016)
LRTV Custom TV
Do You Really Need Gigabit Infrastructure?

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


Altibox is the biggest fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) player and the largest provider of video and TV in Norway. They started out with zero customers in 2002. Now they have close to half a million households and companies attached to their FTTH business. Nils Arne, CEO of Altibox shared with us their story and insight on 5G at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
BTís Openreach Strategy & Its Updates in 2016

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


A lot of developments at Openreach this year in terms of strategy and planned investments. Peter Bell, CIO of Openreach BT, shared with us the updates of Openreach at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
ITU: The Broadband Is Our Future

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


At Ultra-broadband Forum, Houlin Zhao, Secretary General of ITU, discussed how important it is for countries, companies and everybody to be working together to help to build the broadband and digital economies (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
Tackling 5G in Dallas

11|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


Here are our highlights of the 5G North America show in Dallas, Texas with Light Reading's Dan Jones.
LRTV Interviews
Cox Prepping for Virtualization Trials

11|14|16   |     |   (0) comments


In this video interview, Cox's Jeff Finkelstein discusses MSO's plans to test managed business services in early 2017 and tackle Distributed Access Architectures.
LRTV Custom TV
Drivers & Potential of NGP

11|11|16   |     |   (0) comments


ETSI has created an Industry Specification Group to work on Next Generation Protocols (NGP ISG), looking at evolving communications and networking protocols to provide the scale, security, mobility and ease of deployment required for the connected society of the 21st century. The NGP ISG will identify the requirements for next generation protocols and network ...
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei IP 2020 for Future Networks

11|11|16   |     |   (0) comments


Future Networks should satisfy many requirements such as high throughput, extremely low latency, flexible mobility, intrinsic security, networking automation, and so forth. The Chief Architect of Huawei Future Networks addresses a holistic solution, i.e., IP 2020, to achieve these requirements for various future life scenarios (e.g., autonomous driving, tactile ...
LRTV Custom TV
Digital Object Architecture

11|11|16   |     |   (0) comments


Digital Object Architecture provides a basic information infrastructure that can facilitate interoperability between or among different systems, processes, and other information resources, including different identity management systems. Digital objects are networked objects that are named by digital object identifiers and instantiated by an infrastructure service ...
Upcoming Live Events
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Cable Nodes Becoming a Choke Point
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 12/5/2016
Apple Seeds 5G? Seeks 'Multi-Gigabit' Chip Designer
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/30/2016
Altice Plans FTTH for Entire US Footprint
Iain Morris, News Editor, 11/30/2016
WiCipedia: After-School Coding, Salary Probing & Pro-Parenthood Companies
Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, 12/2/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Eyal Waldman, CEO of Mellanox Technologies, speaks to Steve Saunders, CEO of Light Reading, for an exclusive interview about the 100 GB cable challenge, cybersecurity and much more.
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.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Even when there's a strong pipeline of female talent in the comms industry, it tends to leak all the way to the top. McKinsey & Company says women experience pipeline leakage at three primary points: being unable to enter, being stuck in the middle or being locked out of the top. Each pipeline pain point presents its own challenges, but also opportunities to stop the leak. Wireless operator Sprint is making a conscious effort to improve its own pipeline from new recruits to the C-suite, and it wants the rest of the industry to do the same. In this Women in Comms radio show, WiC Board Member and Sprint Vice President of Enterprise Sales Nelly Pitocco will give us her take on the industry's pipeline challenges. Pitocco, who joined Sprint in May and has spent 20 years in the comms industry, will also offer solutions, share how Sprint is tackling the challenge within its own organization and take your questions live on air.