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CableLabs Certifies Secret Slingbox Gear

A yet-to-be-announced Slingbox model that embeds a Docsis 2.0 cable modem has been awarded certification by CableLabs , Cable Digital News has learned.

According to sources, Sling Media Inc. submitted the device for testing in Certification Wave 52, which ended in late June. CableLabs publishes a list of certified Docsis modems and qualified cable modem termination systems (CMTSs), but has yet to include any models from Sling Media. CableLabs will start its first official tests for Docsis 3.0 next month with the kickoff of Wave 56. (See CableLabs Preps for Docsis 3.0 Tests .)

A CableLabs spokesman declined to comment, noting that Sling Media had requested the R&D house not disclose the vendor's certification status.

In addition to demonstrating interoperability on Docsis networks, the certification stamp from CableLabs gives Sling Media the green light to sell the device at retail.

Sling Media has not officially announced a new model with an on-board cable modem, but information about such a device, including the user's manual and several images of the greyish-hued outer shell and innards of the product, have been thoroughly detailed in technology blogs that reference a set of leaked Federal Communications Commission (FCC) documents.

The manual refers to the cable modem as model "V-Modem007" but does not specify a Docsis chipset supplier. Sources say the Slingbox model in question carries a Docsis chipset from Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN), which competes in the sector with Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) and, to a lesser extent, Conexant Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CNXT). This image showing the guts of the new Slingbox device confirms the presence of TI silicon.

It's not known why Sling Media wants its Docsis certification status kept secret, but observers suggested the company wants to avoid pre-announcing the product, or that Sling could be working with a major cable MSO and the parties don’t want to panic networks and other content owners unnecessarily over potential signal retransmission issues.

A Docsis-based product suggests that the place-shifting pioneer has some significant cable plans in the making, despite the fact that it's in the process of being acquired by EchoStar Satellite LLC , a satellite TV giant that is considering the spin-out of its technology division and associated assets. (See EchoStar to Buy Sling Media and EchoStar Mulls Spinoff.)

Embedding a cable modem should reduce some hassles consumers can experience when trying to configure the Slingbox on the home network, particularly if they have to forward ports in the home router.

In an interview Monday, Sling Media CEO Blake Krikorian told Cable Digital News that he doesn't expect any major changes when the EchoStar deal is finalized, and he hinted that Sling could launch some new products as early as this week but declined to give details. (See 'Business as Usual' for Sling Media.)

"I don't comment on future products," he said.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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