Sling Places Hi-Def Bet

9:00 AM -- Sling Media Inc. , now part of the Charlie Ergen family of companies, is giving Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) subs a new way to test out a monthly 250 gigabyte ceiling for "excessive users" that officially comes into play on Oct. 1. (See Comcast Draws the Line at 250GB.)

That's because Sling has launched the Slingbox PRO-HD, a new "place-shifting" device that is capable of streaming both standard-def and high-def video from a wide range of sources, including cable set-tops. It's retailing in the U.S. for $299.99.

Goin' Pro

In addition to shuttling HD around the home network, Sling's new device is also capable of streaming HDTV signals outside the home -- provided that users have access to a relatively beefy 1.5 Mbit/s upstream connection. No word yet if Sling parent EchoStar Corp. (Nasdaq: SATS) plans to bundle this feature into its coming line of tru2way set-tops. (See EchoStar Inks Tru2way Accord .)

Although cable's Docsis 3.0 platform is designed to bond both upstream and downstream channels and produce symmetrical (shared) speeds in excess of 100 Mbit/s, deployments so far are limited to bonded downstreams. So far, only one cable modem termination system (CMTS) supplier, a startup called Casa Systems Inc. , has obtained qualification from CableLabs for the upstream bonding feature of the 3.0 specs. The rest of the 3.0-qualified CMTS group has yet to obtain a grade higher than the "Bronze," which limits channel bonding to the downstream. (See Docsis 3.0 Gear Tracker IV .)

Still, customers who have signed up for Comcast's 3.0 offering in Minnesota's Twin Cities should be able to tap into the HD capabilities of the new Slingbox. There, Comcast is coupling its bonded 50 Mbit/s downstream with a single-channel 5 Mbit/s upstream. (See Comcast Enters the Wideband Era .)

And it looks as if that 250 GB cap could be temporary. The ceiling is reportedly subject to change should more customers tap the Internet for bandwidth-eaters like video and send average consumption upward.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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