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Comcast's Web-Slinging Set-Top Visits the FCC

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is apparently inching closer to deploying a souped-up, IP-connected video gateway after the latest version of the Pace plc -made device recently passed through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for testing.

Engadget on Wednesday caught wind of the FCC filings that included an updated user's manual, which has since been taken down. The box, code-named "Parker" and a component of Comcast's next-generation Xcalibur video platform, sports a Docsis 3.0 cable modem; a CableCARD slot, USB, HDMI and Ethernet ports; an eSATA link for an "optional" external hard drive; and an SD Card port that's being set aside for "future use." The FCC took a look at an earlier version of the device in late 2010. (See Comcast's Internet + TV Set-Top Surfaces.)



Comcast's expected to use the hybrid RF/IP gateway to help it launch a new cloud-based navigation platform and a platform that will integrate Web-sourced, third-party applications. How many apps the MSO will support at launch is unknown, but apps from Pandora Media Inc. and Facebook , plus news and weather widgets, were among those gracing the device used for Comcast's small Xcalibur field trial in Augusta, Ga. In addition to apps, the D3 modem in the box is expected to play an important role in Comcast's IP video migration. (See Docsis 3.0 Tackles Linear IP Video.)

The FCC stamp gets the device over an important barrier. A Comcast spokeswoman declined to say when and where it will launch the box first, but Comcast Converged Products President Sam Schwartz said last fall that the MSO intends to deploy it broadly in 2012. (See Comcast to Swing Xcalibur Wide in 2012.)

In the meantime, Comcast has started to reclaim all of its analog spectrum in some markets to free up capacity for more HD channels and new services such as Xcalibur. Comcast has about a quarter of the job done, with Denver among the latest markets to start the process of shutting down all analog TV services. (See Comcast Starts to Kiss Analog TV Goodbye.)

To get a sense of what Xcalibur and the Parker box have in store, here's a clip of the demo Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts did at last year's Cable Show in last June.






— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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msilbey 12/5/2012 | 5:45:07 PM
re: Comcast's Web-Slinging Set-Top Visits the FCC

The Comcast employees in the trenches must look at this and think wow, and here I am still rolling out A28. The lovely leaks we get on Xcalibur are fantastic, but they don't seem to match up at all with what the broader Comcast workforce is preparing for. 


My guess: when Xcalibur does roll out, it will be as a premium service to start. Good way to test the IP network and preserve returns on legacy boxes in the field. But how many subscribers will want to pay a premium price? 

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:45:06 PM
re: Comcast's Web-Slinging Set-Top Visits the FCC

 


My guess is Atlanta will be the first major market to get this.  Augusta is the field test site, and Comcast has begun to reclaim all analog spectrum in Atlanta.  Some other candidates, if Comcast indeeds focuses on a major market that also has a full analog spectrum reclaim underway:  Denver and San Francisco. It's underway in Albuquerque as well, but does that qualify as a "major" market? (sorry ABQ'ers). JB


 

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:45:06 PM
re: Comcast's Web-Slinging Set-Top Visits the FCC

I'll be curious to see how they price it. But if they are truly interested in moving the migration forward and getting some distance between this new approach and the legacy platform,  I will be surprised if they don't price it any higher than they do with customers who take the current-generation HD-DVR product and make this their primary high end box. But there are millions and millions of these older boxes out there, so we'll still have years left to lament the olde school, un-cloudy, grid-locked nav platform. JB


 

markjeffery 12/5/2012 | 5:45:05 PM
re: Comcast's Web-Slinging Set-Top Visits the FCC

speaking of legacy... do you know if Parker has WiFi? 

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:45:03 PM
re: Comcast's Web-Slinging Set-Top Visits the FCC

From the specs I've seen, i did not notice any mention of WiFi in this model, and Engadget didn't see it either.  The user manual for this model is now off the FCC list, but I checked the first user manual that came along with the box when it passed through the FCC in 2010, and I could not find a reference to WiFi anywhere. But considering the work Comcast did with Moto on on the Televation product, which is basically a headless gateway with WiFi, I would be very surprised if they did not add that capability in a future model so customers could stream and share contnet from that box with home-bound iPads, PCs, etc. over WiFi. JB


 

craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 5:45:02 PM
re: Comcast's Web-Slinging Set-Top Visits the FCC

No Wi-Fi and, just to be clear, this model is not intended to serve as your cable modem -- correct? Despite the Ethernet port and D3 capability, I don't think you can use it to connect the Internet to your PC or TV. With the IP capability, you can get the XfinityTV cloud-based IPG and apps and could route them to other home networked TV devices.


Unless something has changed from the original Parker model, I don't think this box is designed to be a full-fledged hybrid gateway with both STB and modem capability for all devices. For Comcast, that box is still to come.             


 

craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 5:45:01 PM
re: Comcast's Web-Slinging Set-Top Visits the FCC

Yea, and that's not to denigrate what Comcast is doing here, because any device that can "speak QAM and IP" is a great first step down the all-IP path. Plus they can upgrade their IPG on the fly and add in ITV apps for a better user experience. 


It's just that when you put an Ethernet connection on something, some people might assume that they can get direct open Internet access, which is not the case with the Parker box at this stage.


 


 

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:45:01 PM
re: Comcast's Web-Slinging Set-Top Visits the FCC

Right, this wouldn't be used as the customer's HSD service; the way i understand it Comcast would set aside spectrum for the managed IP service components  (the cloud-based guide, IP video if/when they do an IP simulcast). that would all live separate from the spectrum that's being used for pure Docsis best effort HSD service.  And you'll probably only be able to connect via that box to walled garden stuff and integrated apps, as I have not heard of any plan to integrate a browser that would allow for Web surfing, for instance. It'll have MoCA to share content with other MoCA devices on the coax home network, though.  But I was thinking hybrid gateway in the sense that it can speak QAM and IP... I agree that this is not being dressed up as an uber gateway to do all the home's voice, video and HSD services. JB




 
Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:44:59 PM
re: Comcast's Web-Slinging Set-Top Visits the FCC

I hear ya... some people might think that Ethernet port is akin to a router they can use to plug into a PC to gain Internet access.  Still, I wonder what the purpose of including that ethernet port is or will be.  JB

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:44:57 PM
re: Comcast's Web-Slinging Set-Top Visits the FCC

Mike Robuck at CED dropped me a line to mention that the tech demo of the Parker box he saw at CES did include the delivery of video streams over WiFi to a tablet, so it sounds like that capability will be in there, or at least is on the roadmap as a feature.  Also, he noted that Ethernet was used as  home networking output for the demo, but that the box would indeed be using MoCA in deployment scenarios.... so the longer-term Ethernet purpose seems to be a bit murky still.


Or if I'm not understanding that correctly, maybe Mike can chime in here. JB


 


 

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