& 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
Cisco's Conrad Clemson, recently promoted to head up the company's Service Provider Apps & Platforms developments, talks to Light Reading's Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about how he's bringing cloud video, mobile and virtualization together to empower network operators.
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
ADVA Talks Innovation & the Future of Networking

1|17|17   |     |   (0) comments


Ray Le Maistre and Christoph Glingener, CTO of ADVA Optical Networking, discuss the current state of the industry, cooperation and collaboration, open innovation and the future of networking.
LRTV Custom TV
Cisco's Infinite Video Platform

1|17|17   |     |   (0) comments


Cisco's Infinite Video Platform allows service providers to deliver broadcast-quality video over IP networks. Infinite video supports many devices, from 4K TVs to tablets to game consoles. Join Cisco's Rajeev Raman for a brief tour and live demo.
LRTV Interviews
Masergy: Ability to Adapt Key for NFV

1|16|17   |   6:40   |   (0) comments


Speaking at Light Reading's 2020 Vision in Rome, Masergy's VP, Global Technology, Ray Watson, said agility is key to providing the mix and match NFV-based services that are driving business for the managed service provider today.
LRTV Interviews
Equinix: The Data Explosion

1|13|17   |   4:16   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision in Rome, Eric Schwartz, president of EMEA, Equinix, talked about how Equinix is helping its customers manage the influx of data today, and how it's preparing for a future filled with millions of connected IoT devices.
LRTV Interviews
Heavy Reading: The Changing Data Center Landscape

1|12|17   |   6:05   |   (1) comment


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision event in Rome, Heavy Reading's Senior Analyst Roz Roseboro talks about how virtualization is impacting data center evolution and how that evolution is affecting the relationship between service providers, data center operators and public cloud providers.
LRTV Interviews
Boingo: Prepping for Millions of Devices

1|12|17   |   5:07   |   (1) comment


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision in Rome, Boingo's CTO Derek Peterson discusses how wireless operators will address the needs of low-bandwidth and high-bandwidth apps at the same time, the need for more MHz, the impact of IoT and more.
LRTV Interviews
Comcast Shows Off Gig Gateway at CES

1|11|17   |     |   (1) comment


With its largest presence at CES in years, Comcast took the wraps off its long-awaited gigabit gateway and a new platform for managing the home WiFi network. Light Reading Senior Editor Mari Silbey sat down with EVP Chris Satchell to discuss the latest Comcast advance, and met with VP of Product Strategy and Development Andrea Peiro to walk through a demo of the ...
LRTV Interviews
Colt: End-to-End Key for 2017

1|10|17   |   6:21   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Rome, Nico Fischbach of Colt said having a multi-carrier, end-to-end service proposition is going to be key for 2017 -- and SD-WAN is instrumental in making it happen.
From the Founder
Cisco's Clemson on Mobile Cloud Video

1|9|17   |     |   (1) comment


Cisco's Conrad Clemson, recently promoted to head up the company's Service Provider Apps & Platforms developments, talks to Light Reading's Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about how he's bringing cloud video, mobile and virtualization together to empower network operators. "If you think about where we're going… whether it's a mobile application, or a video ...
LRTV Custom TV
VMware Telco NFV Solutions – Preparing for 5G & IOT

1|9|17   |     |   (0) comments


Shekar Ayyar, EVP & Corporate Strategy/General Manager of Telco for VMware, discusses VMware's Telco NFV solutions role and foundation for the Imminent Arrival of 5G & IOT.
LRTV Interviews
Heavy Reading: Big Video Set to Disrupt

1|6|17   |   4:39   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Rome, Heavy Reading's Adi Kishore talks about the challenges of managing and monetizing bandwidth-intensive video, and how service providers will need to transform their networks to cope with the big video explosion.
LRTV Interviews
Heavy Reading: IoT Set to Disrupt

1|5|17   |   7:07   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Senior Analyst of IoT, Steve Bell, tells Light Reading how the Internet of Things (IoT) will transform service provider markets, business models and mindsets, and how virtualizing the network core and Fog networking is key to meeting the agility and flexibility demands of IoT in the future.
Upcoming Live Events
May 15-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Ericsson: 5G Heralds 'New' New Economy
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 1/12/2017
Next Plugfest Gets G.fast Closer to Market
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 1/13/2017
TV's Paradox: No HDR Without 4K
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 1/17/2017
Growing Pains Will Force Telcos to Shape Up
Iain Morris, News Editor, 1/17/2017
IBM, FDA Look to Blockchain to Secure Health Records
Scott Ferguson, Editor, Enterprise Cloud, 1/12/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders chats with Sportlogiq CEO Craig Buntin about sports data analysis.
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.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.