A new class of Ethernet-enabled Digital Transport Adapters (DTAs) will let cable operators pass encrypted TV streams on to retail devices, but at least one vendor is making plans to create an E-DTA that, itself, will be targeted for retail sale. (See New DTA Will Extend Cable TV to Retail Devices.)
"We do see an opportunity to expand further functionality on a retail device, to include advanced features, which would be sold directly to the consumer," Brent Smith, president of Evolution Broadband LLC, one of several companies that makes DTAs, stated in an email to Light Reading Cable. "Evolution plans to lead the market in this area."
Smith volunteered the retail angle when asked if Evolution had any plans to develop an E-DTA, an emerging type of the simple channel zapper that offers improved processing speed and the ability to render more aesthetically pleasing user interfaces, integrate an IP mini server that will enable the device to share cable's basic TV channels with up to four retail video devices (such as the Boxee box) and keep that content protected. Broadcom Corp. is the first to announce a chipset for the E-DTA.
Update: Smith later provided this important clarification: Technically speaking there's no official retail license yet for these devices, and those details are still being finalized. But something's clearly afoot.
Smith said the new Broadcom chipset will help operators expand features and services on the DTA platform, which is now considered "universal" because it can deliver video securely on both Motorola Mobility LLC- and Cisco Systems Inc.-based digital cable platforms. "We are currently developing some new and innovative products that will be based on this design," he said of Evolution's plans involving the E-DTA.
While the E-DTA will do some new things, there are still some things it won't be able to do. Smith points out that the device will still lack a return path (so it can't inherently support cable VoD) and that the IP connection in the device can only be used for home networking.
But Evolution's interest in developing a retail version does speak to cable's apparent interest in pursuing that model for set-tops. It would help to push the capital requirements to the consumer and pave a path toward a model that's been successful for the mobile industry.
No U.S. cable operator has announced any recent plans to try out that sort of model ever since the original tru2way efforts flamed out. However, Comcast Corp., which has deployed millions of DTAs, is kicking the tires on a pre-paid Internet product in the Philadelphia area, but hasn't said if it will expand that idea to other markets or apply the model to a video product. (See Comcast Pitches Pre-Paid Internet Service and Pondering Pre-Paid Cable TV.)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable