Doing more with DTAs
On the low end is an integrated chipset for a new breed of hi-definition Digital Transport Adapter (DTA) devices that cable operators will deploy widely as they reclaim valuable analog spectrum by putting most, if not all, of their channels in a digital format.
Broadcom, which has shipped more than 40 million DTA chipsets (mostly of the standard-definition variety), says its fifth-generation DTA silicon is the first to use 40nm technology as it looks to cut the device's bill of materials and power consumption. Broadcom isn't quoting costs, but multiple MSOs have told Light Reading Cable that they expect to buy HD-DTAs for less than $50 per unit.
Brett Tischler, Broadcom's senior manager of marketing for cable set-top boxes, expects that the "vast majority" of DTAs shipping in the next 12 months will be HD-capable.
Perhaps the more intriguing and controversial addition is integrated Ethernet, a component that could turn HD-DTAs into more advanced hybrid boxes that can source over-the-top content or connect to a DVR or video gateway that is hooked up to a home network. That's probably an option for MSOs outside the U.S. early on, because it's likely that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would have to approve the use of an Ethernet-capable DTA. Those DTAs, like their predecessors, rely on integrated security rather than a removable CableCARD or downloadable encryption system. The FCC's ban on integrated security set-tops took effect in July 2007. (See Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven'.)
Securing the gateway
On the high end, Broadcom has introduced the BCM7435, a new SoC for hybrid IP/QAM video gateways that adds firewall-like security to ensure the device is shielded from malware or viruses.
The new "security oversight engine" in the BCM7435 keeps tabs on any rogue elements that could wreak havoc, says Joe DelRio, Broadcom's associate director of marketing for cable set-top boxes.
Why this matters
A component with firewall-like capabilities will be key as MSOs deploy hybrid boxes that can support Internet applications and services delivered from beyond their typical "walled gardens." Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s X1 platform, for example, isn't expected to allow any content from the open Internet but will support approved third-party apps, including Facebook and Pandora Media Inc.
DTAs, once considered simple channel-zappers, continue to add more advanced features with each new generation. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has been wary of DTAs from the start, fearing that MSOs will end up using versions that can support DVRs, video-on-demand (VoD) and other more advanced apps. Look for a big challenge from the retail consumer electronics industry if any U.S. cable operators shoot for a waiver that would let them deploy Ethernet-capable HD-DTAs.
Read more about cable's work with DTAs and hybrid gateways.
- Comcast HD-DTAs Reach the FCC
- Comcast's Web-Slinging Set-Top Visits the FCC
- Moto Debuts Its HD-DTA
- Broadcom Breaks Out HD-DTA Chipset
- Shaw Deploys Arris Video Gateway
- Comcast IDs Cloud TV Product as 'X1'
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable