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
Network architects aiming to upgrade their networks to support agile, open, virtualized services in the 21st century need to consider new criteria when choosing between technology suppliers.
Live Streaming Video
BTE 2015 Sponsor Keynote: HP
Dr. Prodip Sen, CTO, Network Functions Virtualization, HP
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat Demo

7|2|15   |   10:53   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Nicolas Lemieux demonstrates how Red Hat is driving innovation through open source communities.
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat's Approach to OpenStack Adoption

7|2|15   |   5:17   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Radhesh Balakrishnan outlines his company's open source strategy for both enterprises and telcos.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Goes Mobile With vEPC

7|2|15   |   1:12   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Gabriel Brown discusses results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade that shows a clear commitment by mobile operators to move quickly to virtual EPC deployment.
LRTV Custom TV
Making Business Sense of SDN

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Results of a Brocade-sponsored survey show that CSPs have a clear sense of SDN use cases but are wrestling with the business case. Sterling Perrin of Heavy Reading looks behind the numbers.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Will Be Here Sooner Than You Think

7|2|15   |   2:22   |   (0) comments


Forget the usual ten-year cycle for new technologies – NFV will be a core part of CSP networks in five years, based on results of a Brocade-sponsored survey, says Heavy Reading's Caroline Chappell.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Gains Traction With CSPs

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Roz Roseboro of Heavy Reading analyzes results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade showing that CSPs are getting serious about making the transition to the New IP era.
LRTV Custom TV
It's (Real) Time for Analytics

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Jim Hodges looks at how CSPs say they plan to use analytics to deploy new services in real time as part of The New IP, based on results of a survey sponsored by Brocade.
LRTV Documentaries
IoT in Action

6|30|15   |   1:39   |   (8) comments


Two co-workers discuss the benefits of IoT technology.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson Opens Up on OPNFV

6|30|15   |   14:16   |   (1) comment


Martin Bäckström, VP and head of industry area Datacom at Ericsson, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the emergence of OPNFV, the importance of standards and Ericsson's OPNFV plans.
LRTV Custom TV
NetNumber Founder Discusses NFV/SDN Impact on SP Networks

6|26|15   |   4:15   |   (0) comments


NetNumber Founder Doug Ranalli examines why SPs need a new network infrastructure for service agility. While NFV and SDN are the tools, the old ways of thinking about signaling control are inhibitors. Doug provides his recommendations.
LRTV Custom TV
Orchestrating NFV vCPE Services Across Multivendor Networks

6|26|15   |   5:46   |   (0) comments


Nirav Modi provides an overview of vCPE, the fastest-growing NFV use case, showing how Cyan's Blue Planet orchestrates vCPE services across a multivendor infrastructure to rapidly deliver new managed services for business customers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE at LTE Summit Amsterdam 2015

6|26|15   |     |   (0) comments


As one of the leading global telecommunications providers, ZTE presented its cutting-edge technology at LTE World Summit 2015 in Amsterdam. On display at ZTE's booth were the latest R&D achievements in wireless, 5G development, HetNet, deep convergence of FDD and TDD, and RCS/IMD/iSDN/vCN.
Upcoming Live Events
September 16-17, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Who's Feeding Fiber to LinkNYC Hotspots?
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 6/29/2015
What's a Gigabit Good For?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 7/1/2015
Colt to Jettison Ailing IT Business
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/30/2015
Eurobites: Activist Investor Takes Stake in AlcaLu
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 6/30/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Casa Systems has been going from strength to strength over the last couple of years. In 2013, it became the first vendor to ship an integrated CCAP device -- the ...
Cedrik Neike, SVP of Global Service Provider, Service Delivery, at Cisco, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about solving service provider customer problems in a virtualized, DevOps world, including multivendor support and the future of network procurement.
Cats with Phones