Light Reading

Comcast Set for Set-Top Deadline

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
6/22/2007
50%
50%

ORLANDO, Fla. -- T minus nine days and counting…

Although the media bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has denied Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s waiver request on some low-end set-top models, and there appears to be little hope that the MSO's appeal for a full FCC review on the matter will bear much fruit, the nation's largest cable operator says it will be ready to go when a ban on set-tops with integrated security goes into effect on July 1. (See Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven'.)

Preparing for that deadline was the topic of a session here on Wednesday afternoon at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Cable-Tec Expo.

With only 10 days to go before the mandate takes effect (as of Thursday), Charlie Kennamer, Comcast's VP of engineering, standards and industry affairs, joked that it may be a bit late in the game for engineers in the audience to get that ball rolling.

"If you're a cable operator and you don't already know this stuff, you should be back home figuring it out," he said.

Still, Comcast, like other U.S. cable operators, has been challenged by the operational impact of the transition to "host" set-tops that house CableCARDs, removable modules that contain the keys to the MSO's conditional access system. (See Boxing Up 'Seven-Oh-Seven' .)

To minimize the operational impact of the transition, most operators are asking the initial set of host set-top suppliers -- Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Scientific Atlanta , and Pace Micro Technology -- to mate the box and the CableCARD before they are shipped. To keep those two components fused, and to discourage children (and other consumers) from separating the module from the set-top and causing unnecessary service calls, suppliers are also covering the module with a special cover or faceplate. But to remove it, all a consumer would need is a Phillips-head screwdriver.

Comcast, Kennamer said, has been conducting trials "all over the company" in anticipation of the deadline. "They [host set-tops and the CableCARDs] do work… much in the way their predecessors did," he added, citing the millions of deployed set-tops with integrated security Comcast already has in the field.

But those trials have indicated that when problems do pop up, they tend to occur during the installation process when a technician just didn't follow the correct procedure.

Barring a last-minute reprieve on an already-denied waiver on some low-end set-top models, Comcast expects to deplete its inventory of integrated boxes before the deadline. "If we don't, we'll have a bunch of bricks in inventory after July 1," Kennamer said. (See Comcast Appeals CableCARD Ruling.)

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has been on record as saying he expects to vote on a request from Comcast that seeks full FCC review of the denied waiver request from the agency's media bureau. (See Martin Rocks the Vote.)

MSOs are generally seeking waivers on low-end, all-digital boxes with integrated security because the price difference between those boxes and similar models that require CableCARDs (such as the Motorola DCH100) is fairly wide. But the pill for higher-end HD-DVR host boxes is considered an easier one to swallow. MSOs say the extra electronic components required in the host set-top and the CableCARD module itself add in the range of $70 to $75 to the total cost compared to traditional digital set-tops with the security embedded.

Charter Communications Inc. is one of just a handful of MSOs to obtain a waiver so far. Citing Charter's "financial difficulties," the FCC granted Charter the OK to continue buying and deploying some low-end models until July 1, 2008. Charter may also file a request for an extension. The FCC has yet to act on more than a dozen waiver requests.

Some smaller operators, including Jet Broadband, are seeking deferrals that will enable them to deploy integrated boxes until they can get their hands on CableCARD host devices.

Although the separable security mandate will offer negligible benefits to consumers and operators in the early going, that picture could change if support from the consumer electronics industry blossoms and generates innovation for the cable industry.

That benefit could be "huge" if it creates a bevy of products that can receive digital cable services, Kennamer said. "There's a significant benefit down the road." He acknowledged that the key to that will be the OpenCable Platform, which includes a CableLabs -specified middleware system that will give the cable industry and application developers access to a uniform set-top software footprint.

Kennamer said Comcast has completed some trials and expects to have a good portion of systems OCAP-ready by mid-2008.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
Flash Poll
From The Founder
The Swedish vendor has undergone a significant transformation during the past few years, adjusting to the demands of next-generation communications companies.
LRTV Documentaries
LTE Paves the Way for the 5G Revolution

4|20|15   |   4:20   |   (0) comments


Håkan Andersson, head of 5G product strategy of the Radio Business Unit at Ericsson, discusses the role of LTE, the US and other industry verticals in building a true 5G ecosystem.
LRTV Documentaries
The 3GPP's Road to 5G Standardization

4|17|15   |   4:43   |   (0) comments


Satoshi Nagata, chairman of the 3GPP's TSG-RAN group and a manager at NTT Docomo, explains the standardization process for 5G, as well as the biggest challenges and opportunities.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu CTO Makes the Case for a New 5G Air Interface

4|16|15   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Michael Peeters, CTO of wireless at Alcatel-Lucent, explains why 5G will require a new air interface to meet its diverse performance targets.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu + Nokia: The New Uber-Vendor

4|15|15   |   2:42   |   (4) comments


Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Gabriel Brown discusses the technological and competitive opportunities and challenges if a merger between Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia comes to pass.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Data Center Power Play

4|15|15   |   6:22   |   (0) comments


Huawei has developed industry-leading energy efficiency capabilities for its indoor and outdoor data center solutions, explains Dr. Fang Liangzhou, vice president of Huawei's Network Energy product Line.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Routers, Switches Get the Green Mark

4|15|15   |   2:02   |   (0) comments


TUV Rheinland's Frank Dudley explains how Huawei's routers and switches have been successfully tested by energy efficiency experts and have gained Green Mark Certification.
LRTV Documentaries
A Finn, a Frenchman & a Guy From New Jersey Walk Into a Merger...

4|15|15   |   3:17   |   (0) comments


Stop us if you've heard this one before... Light Reading CEO Founder & CEO Steve Saunders weighs in on the technical and cultural implications of a Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent merger.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Accounting for Better Solutions

4|10|15   |   02:31   |   (1) comment


Murad Yousuf, CTO at Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Finance (Dept. of Zakat & Income Tax), talks about the benefits of deploying router technology from Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
What's in Store for Huawei & DataCore?

4|10|15   |   05:44   |   (0) comments


At the CeBIT trade show in Hannover, Germany, George Teixeira, CEO of software-defined storage (SDS) specialist DataCore Software, explains why he has just signed a partnership agreement with Huawei Technologies.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Du Puts Its Faith in Huawei's Routers

4|9|15   |   3:42   |   (0) comments


Adnan Masood, director of Enterprise MS Solutions Marketing at du, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) operator also known as Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company, explains why his company chose to use Huawei's multifunctional AR routers as part of its managed enterprise services.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Gets Active in the Data Center

4|9|15   |   3:17   |   (0) comments


With enterprise users looking to maximize the use of their data center assets, Huawei’s Chief Architect & Technical Director of IT Data Center Solutions, Bruce Su, explains how the company's six-layer active-active data center solution is eradicating the need to deploy passive, redundant data center assets.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Blue Consult & Huawei for a Better Solution

4|8|15   |   4:01   |   (0) comments


Martin Rott, CEO, and Marc Metzler, head of sales virtualization, from Germany's Blue Consult discuss their collaboration with Huawei and TrendMicro to develop a secure, scalable IT platform that can meet the needs of the most demanding enterprise users.
Upcoming Live Events
May 5, 2015, Hyatt McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
May 6, 2015, Georgia World Congress, Atlanta, GA
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
November 11-12, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Network Instruments, a JDSU division, shares results from its 2015 State of the Network, a global survey on security.
Hot Topics
Verizon Scores New OTT Content Deals
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 4/16/2015
What if the Comcast Merger Fails?
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 4/20/2015
Nokia & Alcatel-Lucent: What's Going On?
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 4/15/2015
Nokia + AlcaLu: What the Analysts Say
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 4/14/2015
Huawei P8 Launch: Cue Applause!
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 4/16/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Data Center Interconnect, or DCI, is one of the hottest sectors in telecom currently. Since coming back to Light Reading last year, prodigal-son style, I've ...
LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures.