October 12, 2012
South Korean set-top maker Humax Co. Ltd. is making an aggressive move into the North American cable market that appears to be led by a push at Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK).
It's not clear if Humax has won any business at the nation's largest cable operator yet, but multiple industry sources say the company is already starting to develop products to Comcast's specifications, a scenario that could apply more pressure on the MSO's traditional box suppliers, such as Motorola Mobility, Pace plc and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).
But rather than targeting Comcast's business for video gateways, Humax appears to be focused on the lower end of the market, placing early efforts on IP-only HD client boxes and a new line of QAM-based HD Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) devices. (See Comcast HD-DTAs Reach the FCC.)
"They [Humax] will get a shot at that business," says an industry source. Comcast and Humax have not commented on their purported relationship.
On the IP side, Humax appears to be working on the XI3, an IP client device that is expected to receive video from a gateway that can transcode QAM video to IP format and shuttle it along the home network using Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) and possibly Wi-Fi. Down the line, those clients should be able to receive IP video directly if and when Comcast decides to launch an IP simulcast. Those boxes, not expected to be ready until next year at the earliest, could also be made to work with a network DVR. Pace plc , the first supplier of Comcast's hybrid QAM/IP X1 box, is also among the vendors known to be developing the XI3. (See Meet Comcast's IP-Only Set-Top.)
Humax also has some executives on board who know the cable business and hail from Samsung Corp. , a company that has success at Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Bright House Networks and Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC). Among recent moves, Frank Romeo joined Humax as SVP, digital cable business development in April 2012, according to his LinkedIn profile. (See Samsung Boxes Break In at Cablevision .)
U.S. cable represents a new opportunity for Humax as operators prepare their shift to IP and Motorola Mobility's and Cisco's grip on the market continues to weaken. Comcast, meanwhile, is trying to open and speed up the set-top produce development cycle with the Reference Design Kit (RDK), a pre-integrated software bundle for IP-connected set-tops and gateways. (See Comcast's Set-Top Accelerator Gains Traction and Cisco, Humax & Technicolor Join Comcast's Crew .)
Satellite TV represents the bulk of Humax's set-top market, with much of its U.S. business coming way of DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV), says Broadbandtrends LLC Principal Analyst Teresa Mastrangelo, noting that Humax is typically a top five or six set-top player in terms of global revenue share. "The RDK may give them an opportunity to come into the cable market. They can take what Comcast wants and just port it on their set-top box."
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable
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