Light Reading

The Set-Top Files (Part I)

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
12/22/2009
50%
50%

Consumer electronics giants, cable MSOs, and industry pressure groups alike are filling up the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) docket with comments in response to the Commission's call for how it can spur innovation in the video device market. (See Whither the CableCARD?)

After a relatively quiet period, filing activity heated up big time Tuesday as documents began to go public a day after the FCC's December 21 deadline on the proceeding, which is getting underway as the Commission prepares a National Broadband Plan it intends to present to Congress on Feb. 17, 2010. (See FCC Explains Its Broadband Plan and FCC Boots Up National Broadband Plan .)

We'll have much more later (stuff's still pouring in), but here's a summary of who's said what so far:

  • NCTA: Look to the TV
    The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) has already acknowledged that CableCARD rules have yet to produce a vibrant retail set-top market but suggested that the Commission, should it conclude that Internet capabilities need to be forced into a "ubiquitous device, it would do better to choose the television itself for its mandate rather than the set-top box."

    At the same time, the NCTA reiterated a stance that a retail market for set-tops will have trouble getting off the ground unless separable security rules are also required of the nation's satellite and telco TV providers, and not just cable.

    On that front, the NCTA is asking the FCC to open up a separate Notice of Inquiry on the so-called "All-MVPD" (multichannel video programming distributor) device, which, in the Association's estimation, could be handled by a "set-back" box that communicates with TVs through the HDMI-CEC (High-Definition Multimedia Interface - Consumer Electronics Control) interface. (See Cable's Got Ideas for a Universal Retail Box .)

    At the same time, NCTA holds that a "mandate to add Internet and browsing capability to every MVPD set-top box would be extraordinarily expensive for consumers," but suggests that tru2way could still play a role in the delivery of video and other content sourced from the Internet.

    Although tru2way defines a technical baseline for the delivery of interactive cable apps like video-on-demand, its presence "does not restrict manufacturers from combining video sources or adding full-fledged Internet access to their 'digital cable ready' DTVs (digital televisions)," the NCTA said, noting that MSOs have already deployed north of 2.5 million tru2way-based boxes (for leased, not retail, distribution).

  • Time Warner Cable: Let the market develop on its own
    Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) chimed in that "new regulatory mandates are not necessary or appropriate at this time," noting that, oh, by the way, it's got its own TV Everywhere initiatives well underway.

    But if the FCC insists on intervening, the MSO said it's most in favor of an HDMI-connected, small set-back device along the lines of the NCTA proposal.

    The MSO says it's "eager" to deliver Internet content to set-tops but adds that Internet-connected set-tops aren't necessarily a viable strategy for "bridging the digital divide" and encouraging broadband adoption.

    "In TWC's experience, most households lacking Internet access report reasons unrelated to PC ownership, including lack of interest or cost. Moreover, a disproportionate share of households with TVs but no Internet service have no set-top boxes at all and thus may be unwilling to attach a new device in order to obtain broadband access."

  • Another vote for 'SimulCrypt'
    The American Cable Association (ACA) , an org that represents about 900 independent MSOs, recommended that the FCC keep all existing box waiver orders going, but added that the Commission should also ensure that Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) support "SimulCrypt," an interface that allows MSOs to use multiple encryption keys and conditional access systems on the same stream of video (therefore preventing the need to simulcast those streams and eat up bandwidth unnecessarily).

    The ACA, echoing a claim made by Ohio's Massillon Cable TV Inc. earlier this year, said Moto and Cisco don't support SimulCrypt in North America (where they are incumbents), but do so in international markets where they are trying to break in. (See Cisco, Moto Called Out by Ohio MSO.)

    Irdeto Access B.V. also chipped in its support for SimulCrypt.

  • Sony likes the gateway, hates bandwidth caps
    Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) supports a "network gateway model" because it would offer a standard interface to a variety of MVPD networks and permit connections to Web-sourced video content.

    Not surprisingly, Sony, which is trying to make some hay off movie downloads via the Playstation3, is not in favor of "artificial limits on Internet use, such as monthly 'usage caps.' "

    The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) also offered support for the gateway approach.

  • Dish: No on the All-MVPD
    Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), like DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) before it, is resistant to any new rules that would also ban the satellite TV giant from using set-tops with imbedded security. (See DirecTV Disses Cable's 'All-MVPD' Plans.)

    "Mandating the development of a nationally portable video device that works across all delivery platforms does not serve the public interest," Dish said, in a joint filing with tech spinoff and set-top maker EchoStar Technologies LLC.

    As for its reasons, Dish says satellite TV is a different animal and subject to "the physical constraints of one-way spectrum." Moreover, combining cable, telco, and IPTV requirements into a single box "would be to make it overly complex and prohibitively expensive for consumers."

  • TVS pitches another security approach Transparent Video Systems Inc. (TVS) , a company that's supplying digital video systems to Tier 2 and Tier 3 MSOs, agreed that the CableCARD and its Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA) interface is outdated, and hasn't done a good job fostering set-top competition. At the same time, TVS urged the FCC not to toss out the whole idea of separable security. (See TVS Debuts Set-Top-Free Security.)

    Instead, it's pitching an alternative system that uses the SD/MicroSD or USB form-factor. Beyond Broadband Technology LLC (BBT) is also pursuing a separable security platform that leverages USB. (See FCC: Retail Set-Top Is Possible, at Least.)

  • CERC: Enforce the CableCARD The Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition (CERC) wants the FCC to provide "vigorous oversight and enforcement" of cable's CableCARD obligations so consumers can more easily, quickly, and routinely receive and install the modules.

    "Making CableCARDs routine will build sufficient consumer confidence that retailers can with confidence market MVPD access as a feature rather than be concerned that consumers will view it as a deadweight expense," CERC said.

    But the organization's also open to the gateway idea, thinking such a device could be made to operate on multiple types of MVPD networks, as Internet modems and routers are today.

  • DLNA makes its play The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) claims that a "gateway" that, naturally, uses DLNA to shuttle content around the house offers a good fit, and that High-Definition Audio-Video Network Alliance (HANA), a competing platform that relies on the IEEE-1394 "Firewire" interface, does not.

    Its argument: Firewire's on the verge of obsolescence and not widely adopted or supported. "Even [IEEE-1394] cables can be difficult to find in electronics stores," DLNA claims, noting that more than 6,000 DLNA-capable devices are already certified.

    Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), meanwhile, replayed its call for the FCC to waive a rule that requires HD cable boxes to house the Firewire interface, claiming that DLNA is a better option . (See Intel Wants In on Set-Top Waiver Action .)

  • Firewire group gets fired up But the IEEE-1394 group isn't going away without a fight. Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) countered that adoption of Firewire is being hampered by MSOs that refuse to allow bi-directional support of the Firewire port in set-top boxes for the purpose of controlling or receiving video.

    So, in TI's view, 1394 and HANA are ideal for multimedia home networking. "If this Commission were to adopt another network interface standard (or adopt a home networking standard using a different network interface), it would not solve the problem that has slowed the growth of IEEE-1394," TI said.

    The 1394 Trade Association essentially echoed that view in its own filing.

  • Baja Broadband still wants a waiver
    Baja Broadband Operating Company LLC used this as an opportunity to urge the FCC to grant the operator a waiver for refurbished set-tops with integrated security, claiming that it can't afford boxes with CableCARDs.

    Baja, a rural operator with 67,000 subs on 12 systems in rural parts of New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, and Texas, said the costs of supporting the separable security rule is "among the major reasons" why the company still can't provide high-speed broadband services.

    But it also believes it's "profoundly unfair and unsound" for the FCC not to impose similar rules on DirecTV and Dish, claiming they've been given a "free ride" so far.

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

    (0)  | 
    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
  • Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
    Flash Poll
    From The Founder
    Networks of the future will rely on "white box" switches and servers rather than proprietary hardware and that's going to alter the shape of the communications industry. Who says so? John Chambers.
    LRTV Custom TV
    The Benefits of HyperScale Clouds for NFV

    3|27|15   |   01:50   |   (0) comments


    Hyperscale cloud has been developed by the Internet giants to support the creation and delivery of software-based services at blistering speeds, and at the lowest possible cost. The original ETSI NFV vision was to adopt hyperscale cloud architecture and practices. This vision has become somewhat obscured along the way, due to misunderstandings about the hyperscale ...
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    eLTE Rapid Meets the Need for Speed

    3|26|15   |   4:45   |   (0) comments


    Designed especially for emergency and dedicated ad hoc local mobile communications coverage, Huawei's eLTE Rapid solution can deliver trunked voice, video and data coverage for multiple users over a 6km range and be set up in just 15 minutes, explains Huawei's Norman Frisch.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    On Videos: Challenges & Opportunities

    3|26|15   |   5:56   |   (0) comments


    Most everything is now connected. And along with 4K and 4G technologies, everyone could be creating and broadcasting video contents. Users are expecting better video experience with any screen, anywhere and anytime. Operators will meet new challenges, but also see some big opportunities.
    LRTV Custom TV
    JDSU: Delivering Dynamic Networks for a Personalized Experience

    3|26|15   |   5:59   |   (0) comments


    Light Reading speaks to JDSU at Mobile World Congress 2015 about new solutions in the areas of HetNets, VoLTE, backhaul, virtualization, big data analytics, and real-time intelligence.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Smarter Service Chaining & New Ways to Benefit From Qosmos Technology

    3|25|15   |   03:11   |   (0) comments


    David Le Goff, director of strategic and product marketing at Qosmos, explains how the company has added application awareness to subscriber information to make service chaining more efficient and reduce costs for networking and infrastructure. In addition, Qosmos technology, which has been delivered as C libraries, is now also available as a virtual machine, ...
    Between the CEOs
    Qosmos CEO: The Changing Face of DPI

    3|24|15   |   13:53   |   (0) comments


    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. Also, how the comms market is becoming more like the automotive industry.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    FC Schalke Scores With Its Agile Stadium

    3|24|15   |   6:23   |   (0) comments


    Top German soccer club FC Schalke 04 has deployed a new, agile WiFi network from Huawei in its Veltins-Arena stadium and is reaping the benefits in terms of customer satisfaction and business opportunities, explains marketing chief Alexander Jobst.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Huawei’s Insights on Mobile Video

    3|24|15   |   7:51   |   (0) comments


    More people than ever are now watching videos on smartphones. Seventy percent of mobile traffic will be video traffic until 2018. In this video, Huawei's exports give their insights on mobile video in terms of business model, network planning and 4G network construction.
    LRTV Documentaries
    The Rise of Industry 4.0

    3|24|15   |   02:26   |   (9) comments


    Are you ready for the fourth industrial revolution? It's a big deal for influential operators such as Deutsche Telekom.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Getting Connected With eLTE

    3|23|15   |   06:04   |   (0) comments


    Trunked radio communications have entered the 4G LTE world, and with Huawei's eLTE solution, can now deliver a full range of data and video services as well as push-to-talk voice, explains Huawei's Norman Frisch.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Funkwerk’s on Track With Huawei

    3|19|15   |   3:23   |   (0) comments


    GSM-R technology specialist Funkwerk and Huawei have forged a partnership that is benefiting both parties, notes Funkwerk's Gottfried Winter.
    LRTV Documentaries
    How EANTC Tested Cisco's Virtualization Solutions

    3|18|15   |   5:49   |   (0) comments


    Carsten Rossenhövel, managing director of independent test lab EANTC, tells Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the innovative approach his team had to take when validating Cisco's service provider virtualization and cloud solutions.
    Upcoming Live Events
    April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
    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
    All Upcoming Live Events
    Infographics
    Hot Topics
    AT&T Woos SMBs With Small-Scale WiFi
    Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 3/26/2015
    The Rise of Industry 4.0
    Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 3/24/2015
    Google Hires Wall Street's Most Influential Woman as CFO
    Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 3/24/2015
    Average US Broadband Speeds No Great Shakes
    Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 3/25/2015
    Net Neutrality Suits: Only The Beginning?
    Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 3/24/2015
    Like Us on Facebook
    Twitter Feed
    Webinar Archive
    BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
    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.
    Chattanooga’s EPB publicly owned utility comms company has become a poster child for how to enable a local economy using next-gen networking technology. Steve Saunders, Founder of Light Reading, sits down with Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB, to learn how EPB is bringing big time tech to small town America.
    Cats with Phones
    Interspecies Phone Love Click Here
    "No, you hang up."
    "No, YOU hang up."
    Latest Comment