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TI Gets a Reprieve

Jeff Baumgartner

1:00 PM -- The folks at Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) have another reason to be thankful during this week's U.S. holiday: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given the chipmaker more time to file comments (likely in the form of a formal opposition) to Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)'s request that the Commission waive a rule requiring HD cable boxes to contain the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 1394 "Firewire" interface.

In an order issued today, the FCC agreed that a 10-day extension of the original Nov. 30 deadline was appropriate because it would fall on the Monday immediately following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. (See Blame It on Turkey Day .)

"Motions for extensions of time are not routinely granted. Nevertheless, we do occasionally grant limited extensions of time when we find that the public interest would be served by doing so," the FCC noted.

With that, the new deadline for comments on Intel's waiver request is now Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009, with follow-on reply comments due Monday, Dec. 21.

A final ruling on the matter won't emerge until sometime next year, but Intel is asking for a waiver that would allow it to build set-top platforms with IP-based digital outputs without also having to be saddled with supporting the still-required Firewire interface.

Intel claims that IEEE 1394 is too expensive and rarely used by MSOs, holding that the use of a protected IP interface is the optimal way to allow the sending of video to other displays via a home network. (See Intel Wants In on Set-Top Waiver Action .)

TI's coming comments will likely go deeper, but it has previously argued that the cost of the Firewire interface pales versus the overall costs of a set-top box, and that adoption of the technology has been hindered because most MSO-provided set-tops block some of the interface's capabilities.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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12/5/2012 | 3:52:06 PM
re: TI Gets a Reprieve

I wonder if the TI lobbyist can keep a straight face when he explains to the FCC why 1394 should be in cable STBs.  It doesn't make any sense. Ten years ago, 1394 was the digital heir-apparent as DTV interface, but things change. Today, very few consumer electronics have 1394 interfaces and most of those (camcorders) won't do anything when connected to an STB. Unfortunately, 1394 is quickly fading from the scene, not just for CE, but for computers too. Even Apple is releasing Macs without FireWire these days.

Intel is right. An IP-based connection is the way to go, but we don't need another mandate from the FCC. The market will go that direction on it's own. The FCC shouldn't play king-maker with standards like this.

Intel's wrong about one thing though. 1394 chips for STB haven't been over $5 in years. When I left the biz several years ago, it was already below $4.  I'd guess it's at $2.50 now, but there's no reason they can't get it down to just the cost of the package with no die, since nobody would notice the difference anyway. ;)

Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner
12/5/2012 | 3:52:04 PM
re: TI Gets a Reprieve

Yep, it will be interesting to see what kind of argument TI puts together on this one since the world of connectivity is heading in the direction of IP.  But if the 1394 chips are down 50% from where Intel had it, that could poke a hole in their cost argument.  But i agree that it makes little sense to force adoption of 1394 if the market's already going in another direction...even if 1394 capabilities in cable boxes haven't been put to full use.  The fact that it's not used much even in set-tops that have the interface offers reason enough for a waiver. Then again, TI may have an ace up its sleeve...we'll know for sure  in a few days. JB



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