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
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
Flash Poll
From The Founder
The New IP is actually bigger even than business. Like another hugely important tech that Light Reading is digging into right now, the New IP has the potential to change the world by fundamentally advancing what it is possible for people to achieve with communications.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Shares Its Vision of the Future of Mobile Networks Innovations

2|26|15   |   2:30   |   (0) comments


Mobile broadband is changing our lives. It's reshaping the Internet, industry, and society. It allows us to freely connect with one another anytime, anywhere. At this year's Mobile World Congress, Huawei will share its latest insights and newest ideas and technologies that will shape the future of MBB. They will showcase their end-to-end MBB solutions that will ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Accelerate Digitizing, Boost Digital Business

2|26|15   |   6:14   |   (0) comments


A new digital revolution is leading us to a better connected world. Together with millions of digital partners, Huawei will help CSPs to build their digital service ecosystem and aggregate a wide variety of digital services. In this video, we find out how Huawei is going to help CSPs implement digital operations.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Secret Recipe to Enabling Hyper-Growth Industries

2|26|15   |   3:38   |   (0) comments


With a number of successful cases on network capability exposure, Huawei is going to share the secret recipe to enabling hyper-growth markets with a step-by-step approach.
LRTV Documentaries
BTE 2015 Is Bigger & Even Better

2|25|15   |   03:13   |   (4) comments


This year's Big Telecom Event (BTE) in Chicago is going to provide more opportunities than ever for networking, getting to grips with key industry challenges and opportunities and, equally as important, having some fun.
LRTV Interviews
Light Reading ICT Leaders Roundtable at MWC 2015

2|12|15   |   1:07   |   (2) comments


On Sunday March 1, 2015, Light Reading will host an ICT Leaders Roundtable in partnership with Huawei. At this half-day event, CIOs, analysts and researchers will discuss key industry trends like virtualization in the cloud with a specific focus on new business models. Located at the luxurious Renaissance Hotel near the Fira Barcelona, space is limited so please ...
LRTV Documentaries
Going Green in 2015

2|12|15   |   02:04   |   (0) comments


Energy efficiency is set to be an incredibly hot topic in the telecom industry this year.
LRTV Custom TV
SDN & NFV: Where Are We Going From Here?

2|11|15   |   11:27   |   (0) comments


Vitesse Semiconductor CTO Martin Nuss gives his perspective on why SDN and NFV should be tightly interconnected and how he sees the industry moving forward.
LRTV Documentaries
Time for Gigabit Europe?

2|9|15   |   01:27   |   (4) comments


Gigabit broadband networks are springing up all around the US and they'll soon become more commonplace in Europe.
LRTV Interviews
Brocade Brings New IP Vision to 2020 Vision Executive Summit

2|3|15   |   4:23   |   (0) comments


In December 2014, Light Reading gathered telecom executives in Reykjavik, Iceland to discuss their vision for high-capacity networks through the end of the decade. The intimate, interactive meeting was set against the backdrop of Iceland's spectacular natural beauty. As one of the event's founding sponsors, Brocade's Kelly Herrell shared his company's strategy at ...
LRTV Interviews
Brocade's Kelly Herrell on the New IP

2|2|15   |   12:36   |   (0) comments


In December 2014, Steve Saunders sat down with Brocade VP of Software Networking Kelly Herrell at Light Reading's 2020 Vision executive summit in Reykjavik, Iceland. They spoke about Brocade's approach to the New IP, the future of the telecom industry, and more.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Dr. Dong Sun Talks About Carriers' Digital Transformation & Huawei’s Telco OS

1|29|15   |   6:28   |   (0) comments


Dr. Dong Sun, Chief Architect of Digital Transformation Solutions at Huawei, discusses how telecom operators can become digital ecosystem enablers and deliver optimal user experiences that are in real-time, on-demand, all-online, DIY and social (ROADS).
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Chief Network Architect Talks about Network Experience & Operators’ Strategies

1|29|15   |   3:39   |   (0) comments


In the digital age, network experience has become the primary productivity especially for telecom operators. In this video, Wenshuan Dang, Huawei’s Chief Network Architect, discusses how carriers can tackle the challenge of infrastructure complexity in order to enhance business agility and improve user experience.
Upcoming Live Events
March 17, 2015, The Cable Center, Denver, CO
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
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
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Net neutrality, broadband services and the current outlook on data consumption, as presented by the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Hot Topics
Cyber Security Expert Warns: You're Doing It Wrong
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 2/23/2015
10 Weirdly Useful IoT Devices
Eryn Leavens, Copy Desk Editor, 2/24/2015
Small Cells Enabling Location Services
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 2/25/2015
MWC: Let the Madness Begin
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 2/23/2015
Is FCC Weighing Net Neutrality Changes?
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 2/25/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Check out Light Reading's interview with Jay Samit, the newly appointed CEO of publicly traded SeaChange International Inc. With a resume that includes Sony, EMI, and Universal, Samit brings a reputation as an entrepreneur and a disruptor to his new role at the video solutions company. Hear what he had to say about the opportunities in video, as well as the outlook for cable, telco, OTT and mobile service providers.
G'day! And welcome to an entirely new feature on Light Reading -- our weekly "CEO-to-CEO" interview.