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RussB's Avatar RussB
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Cable Ops Push FCC for Tier 1 Encryption
Operators including Comcast, Time Warner Cable say change would be consumer- and eco-friendly

By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/1/2012 12:46:41 PM

Top cable operators are pushing the FCC to approve its proposed sunsetting of the prohibition on encrypting basic digital service.

Both the FCC and cable operators agree the change would be consumer- and eco-friendly since it would cut down on truck rolls, with installations and disconnects done remotely.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, they cited Cablevision, which got a waiver from the FCC in 2010 to encrypt basic digital service in New York and says it is now performing 99.5% of routine service disconnects remotely.

Encryption also helps prevent theft-of-service, they point out.

The FCC last October proposed allowing basic-tier encryption of digital, given that the world is going digital and citing the consumer-friendliness of remote service and the cable-friendliness of preventing theft of service.

They said the rule was pro-consumer -- FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has emphasized that the FCC should be a consumer-focused, not industry-focused, agency -- and that the FCC should approve it "as expeditiously as possible."

They say that since almost 100% of customers will have the requisite equipment, lifting the prohibition will be a "nonevent," but that further delay would not be consumer-friendly. "[E]ach day that passes without Commission action delays the significant benefits that will come from the Commission's proposed rule change."

In addition to emphasizing the consumer-friendliness, the operators also hit on another FCC sweet spot: faster broadband.

"Cable operators will have even more incentives to migrate rapidly to all-digital networks," they wrote. "This frees up cable bandwidth for faster Internet, more high-definition channels, more video-on-demand choices, and other services that customers are demanding in today's competitive marketplace."

Among those signing on to the letter, which was essentially a Who's Who of National Cable & Telecommunications Association members, were Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Cablevision, Bright House and Charter.

The FCC originally adopted the rule prohibiting cable operators from scrambling their digital basic tiers so viewers with cable-ready sets would not have to buy or rent a set-top. It is still proposing that cable operators provide them.

"We tentatively conclude that allowing cable operators to encrypt the basic service tier in all-digital systems will not substantially affect compatibility between cable service and consumer electronics equipment for most subscribers," the commission said. The FCC has already granted several waivers -- most prominently to Cablevision -- and more are in the hopper.

The FCC conceded there was an issue with consumers with basic-only digital who accessed it without set-tops, or second or third sets without digital boxes that would now need new equipment to unscramble a signal. It proposed adopting the conditions it put on the waiver it gave Cablevision to encrypt its basic service in New York.

Those include requiring cable operators to offer "current basic-only subscribers up to two set-top boxes or CableCARDs without charge for up to two years, (b) digital subscribers who have an additional television set currently receiving basic-only service one set-top box or CableCARD without charge for one year, and (c) current qualified low-income basic-only subscribers up to two set-top boxes or CableCARDs without charge for five years." But it also asked whether this was adequate.
PaulGo's Avatar PaulGo
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Is the Set-Top Duopoly on Its Deathbed?

March 7, 2012 | Jeff Baumgartner

Getting out of the set-top box business appears to be the thing to do these days.

Following word that Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) wants to unload its set-top box unit comes a rumor that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is eager to sell off Motorola Mobility Inc. (NYSE: MMI)'s box business even before the deal is consummated. (See Why Cisco Wants Out of Set-Tops (Or Not).)

If both possibilities end up ringing true, then, ding-dong, the duopoly is dead. But, it's hard to blame them if they do indeed decide to bug out. The set-top box business isn't what it once was as margins drop and the traditional functions of the set-top box, including security, give way to set-top-free IP-connected TVs and tablets and more elegant software-based security systems that loosen their stranglehold on conditional access.

The set-top box is a dying breed, but the business isn't dead yet, nor will it be for many years. So, in the theoretical absence of the duopoly, what's domestic cable to do? Don't fret too much is a good starting point. Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC) may have picked the worst time to exit the U.S. set-top box business, but there is no shortage of folks that are hungry to help cable operators bridge the chasm. Here are some of the leading candidates, plus a few dark horses.

Full article at:
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We wouldn't have a problem in the STB market if FCC had delivered on AllVid and enabled a standard IP-based delivery system for all providers, not just cable. Instead we'll likely end up with a mish-mash of competing tech for IP which means a continuation of new boxes (and rental/lease fees) every time you switch providers. IP-enabled TVs aren't going to fix that.
RussB's Avatar RussB
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Note: The article fails to mention that NBCUniversal is owned by Comcast which I think is relevant.

Networks Back Cable's Basic-Tier Encryption Push

CBS, NBCU, News Corp. and Disney Say FCC Rule Change Is in Public Interest

Multichannel News - March 8, 2012

"Companies representing the four biggest broadcast networks -- CBS, NBCUniversal, News Corp. and The Walt Disney Co. -- urged the FCC to enact a rule change allowing cable operators to encrypt basic-tier programming in all-digital systems.

"Encryption will provide significant public interest benefits by ensuring the secure delivery of high-value broadcast content on the basic service tier and facilitating further innovation in cable systems," the media companies wrote in a March 8 letter (

The Federal Communications Commission last October proposed letting MSOs encrypt basic-tier encryption of digital TV, citing the consumer-friendliness of remote service activation and deactivation and the advantages to the industry of more easily preventing theft of service.

The CEOs of the largest U.S. cable companies sent a letter to the FCC last week on the issue, telling the agency that the change would provide them greater incentive to migrate to all-digital networks and that nearly all subscribers would have equipment necessary to receive the signals.

The media companies said it is "clearly in the public interest and in the national interest to protect basic tier content with encryption."

"The public will benefit because failure to protect basic tier content could lead to the migration of high-quality video programming to other distribution channels outside of the basic tier where the content would be better protected but unavailable to those consumers who subscribe only to the basic tier," the companies wrote.

The FCC has proposed that cable operators provide subscribers devices that can decrypt the basic service tier for a period of time following a cutover to encryption."
Desert Hawk's Avatar Desert Hawk
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How is something that requires renting high priced devices "in the public interest"? I suppose increasing their profits is in the interest of members of the public that are their stockholders, but it sure as Hell isn't in the interest of the general public. "Secure delivery of high value broadcast content"? It will still be delivered unsecure over the air...or will it? Maybe we are soon headed for the day when the only free over the air HD is from PBS, with the major commercial networks OTA in SD only crammed on to 1 or 2 RF channels (the rest having been auctioned off to wireless companies) and the only way to get them in HD being via cable or satellite. "Second or third sets"? Some families have 6 or more tv sets nowadays. Are they going to rent boxes for all of them? Encrypting basic could set off the biggest boost in antenna sales ever...if there is anything to watch OTA, that is. I hope congress intervenes and makes the in the clear basic rule a law.
ljo000's Avatar ljo000
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There are definitely benefits to encrypting and remote activation would be good but there needs to be some give and take on the hardware side. It wouldn't be very difficult to create a standard for 3rd party set top box and TV makers to use that would allow for something like a cablecard for basic. Competition among low cost manufacturers would keep costs down and the cable cos. could be forced to provide the cards for free or for a one time fee, not rented.
gfbuchanan's Avatar gfbuchanan
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I don't see the "Public Good" in allowing basic tier encryption. The TV manufacturers spent time an $ putting the basic cable tuners into the TVs. They will be completely useless if this is allowed to go forward.

And from what I understand, low cost devices provided by MSO in the past have not provided a high quality picture. So the fancy TV with a good, built-in interpolater will end up having to suffer from the poor quality signal put out by the low cost, basic level STB.

Not to mention that all of the HTPC users who view and record unencrypted content legally will no longer be able to do that.

Ken H's Avatar Ken H
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Originally Posted by gfbuchanan View Post

I don't see the "Public Good" in allowing basic tier encryption.

I think the logic is 'if it will help keep the cableco costs down, it will be good for the consumer'. We shall see.


The TV manufacturers spent time an $ putting the basic cable tuners into the TVs. They will be completely useless if this is allowed to go forward.

Tuners in HDTV's are primarily there for over-the-air reception, as required by law. As it turned out, including clear QAM tuning was easy and inexpensive, so once a few manufacturers did it, they all did it to keep competitive.


And from what I understand, low cost devices provided by MSO in the past have not provided a high quality picture.

By nature, low cost devices previously were always standard definition and looked as such. But the FCC is also currently in process of ruling on allowing new types of cable boxes that will be fully compatible with HD and about the cost of SD boxes of the past.


Not to mention that all of the HTPC users who view and record unencrypted content legally will no longer be able to do that.

This is true for users of HTPC's that do not use CableCARDs, but I would venture to say many (most?) HTPC's use CableCARDs.

For those who don't currently use CABLECard tuners in their HTPC, they will unfortunately have to make the additional investment in the CC device, used start less than $100 and a new state of the art Ceton is $199, and at that point the CC itself can be free from the provider or usually less than $2 additional per month.

Based on previous similar FCC rulings, I believe if the FCC approves encryption of all channels, they will also require the cablecos to provide free boxes and CCs for at least a year or two.

At the end of the day I agree this is not the great consumer friendly decision it's being made out to be, but I also understand the reason cablecos want this; it makes perfect sense for them to control their product from a central location as opposed to a truck roll every time a customer wants to change their programming, and to prevent service theft. Put yourself in their position and you can see why they are asking for this to be approved.

Like I said above, we shall see how it turns out, and if the FCC is doing their job as they should be, in the best interest of the consumer.
RussB's Avatar RussB
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Comcast's ThePlatform Repackages 'TV Everywhere' Content

New Features Let Operators Create Online Content Bundles, Segment Subscribers

By Todd Spangler -- Multichannel News, 3/8/2012 10:39:54 AM

ThePlatform, Comcast's online-video publishing subsidiary, has enhanced its MPX system to let cable operators create customized packages of "TV Everywhere" content.

"This lets operators give customers what they expect -- and more," thePlatform senior vice president of sales and marketing worldwide Marty Roberts said.

ThePlatform's MPX video publishing system has added two new features: Subscription Packages and Subscriber Groups.

Subscription Packages are collections of content defined by an operator, such as those that mirror basic, extended or premium channel TV lineups, which can be viewed on devices beyond TVs. These can be offered as a value-added extension or as a standalone premium-priced option.

Subscriber Groups let operators segment customers based on criteria such as subscription level, geography, content rating, device type and content-viewing preferences.

"Operators have never really had a relationship with their users," Roberts said. "This lets them increase the 'time to relevancy' -- how long does it take for someone to find something they want to watch." Initially, he added, thePlatform expects MSO customers to offer expanded TV Everywhere content as part of the core cable TV subscription.

For example, operators could use the new features to create a kids programming bundle of TV Everywhere content, with free online viewing of past episodes of children's shows, for subscribers to watch on their tablets or game consoles.

Within thePlatform's system, subscribers can belong to multiple Subscriber Groups, and can be offered a variety of Subscription Packages to create highly tailored offerings. The features let MSOs create new business policies based on metadata about content and subscribers.

ThePlatform's cable operator customers include Comcast, Liberty Global, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Cablevision Systems and Rogers Communications. TV networks in its client roster include A+E Networks, NBC Local Media, Outdoor Channel, PBS Kids Sprout, Travel Channel Media and truTV.
Ken H's Avatar Ken H
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Originally Posted by RussB View Post

Note: The article fails to mention that NBCUniversal is owned by Comcast which I think is relevant.

Yes, like I said in the Charter topic, one can easily see why NBCU would support this, being owned by Comcast.

As for CBS, News Corp, and Disney, I'd like to know why they signed up. I'm sure they have their reasons, and I have my guesses, but it would be interesting to know the inside story.
RussB's Avatar RussB
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Comcast sends snail mail warnings to cable modem subscribers infected with malware

By Steve Donohue
March 9, 2012

Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is beginning to warn some of its high-speed Internet subscribers in Utah and other markets that their computers and other devices may be infected by malware. Rather than attempt to send an email to infected computers, the MSO is relying on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver the news.

"One or more of the devices connected to your network are infected with malware," the MSO wrote in one of the letters sent to a Utah subscriber. "This allows the cyber criminal to redirect your computer and other devices to websites that may look legitimate, but are fraudulent and intended to steal your personal information and website logins and passwords," it adds.

Earlier this week, Comcast VP of Internet systems engineering Jason Livingood warned at a House hearing that the MSO will never be able to completely secure its broadband network. He noted at a Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing that about 10 percent to 15 percent of American households are likely infected with botnets.

The letters Comcast sends to subscribers with infected computers include instructions on changing a computer's DNS settings in order to access Web servers that haven't been infected with malware.
RussB's Avatar RussB
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Motorola Pushes Ahead on Cable Access

Light Reading Cable - March 9, 2012

It appears to be business as usual at Motorola Mobility Inc.'s cable access unit, even after questions about its fate after the Google acquisition continue to swirl.

The unit, which makes elements such as cable modem termination systems (CMTSs) and edge QAMs, is pushing forward with Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP), a much denser, next-gen platform that's expected to play a key role in cable's IP video migration.

Motorola is approaching CCAP on two fronts: one, developing a fully integrated chassis that combines CMTS and edge QAM functions and, two, using a distributed approach that relies on a CCAP core that handles upstream connectivity in conjunction with super-dense edge QAMs. Both product angles intend to unify all of cable's services on one platform.

Motorola's has already received orders for the Apex 3000, the universal edge QAM that will serve as a launch point for the vendor's distributed CCAP architecture, says Jeff Walker, Moto's director of CMTS product marketing. Some MSOs are trialing it now. The Apex 3000 will be a "significant [revenue] contributor this year," he adds.

That product and its 49 QAM channels per port, Walker says, will give cable operators the headroom for video on demand, switched digital video and perhaps network DVR applications alongside Docsis data traffic.

Motorola has not indicated when its full CCAP platform will be ready to go, but Walker says its integrated and distributed products will launch at the same time. He expects MSOs to start lab trials this year and follow with field trials in 2013. He sees 2014 and 2015 as the "key deployment years" for CCAP. Among MSOs, Comcast Corp. has been in the throes of CCAP "operational-readiness" trials before gear becomes available, knowing that it will need to be ready to integrate video and data groups that historically have operated separately. (See Comcast Gets Ready for CCAP:
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"HIGH VALUE broadcast content". The words "high value" seem to indicate that they want to jack up retrans fees for high definition programming. If OTA HD is killed off by gutting the OTA spectrum, then the only way to get the newworks in HD will be via pay tv. Then FOX could demand the $4+ per subscriber per month that Murdoch thinks it is worth (he once said something to the effect that the FOX network is worth at least as much as ESPN).

Will those "free boxes" really be HD DTAs? I doubt it. They will probably be SD analog RF channel 3 boxes. "Digital Transport Adaptor"? No, it really will be "Digital To Analog"! More people watching analog stretchocrap in monaural on their HDTVs. THAT IS NOT PROGRESS!

It would be "consumer friendly" if tv manufacturers could drop analog tuners after the end of analog low power broadcasting at the end of 2015. With huge numbers of people using SD DTAs, they will have to continue to include analog tuners in new tv sets for decades to come, so they can tune precious channel 3!
PaulGo's Avatar PaulGo
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Originally Posted by Ken H View Post

Yes, like I said in the Charter topic, one can easily see why NBCU would support this, being owned by Comcast.

As for CBS, News Corp, and Disney, I'd like to know why they signed up. I'm sure they have their reasons, and I have my guesses, but it would be interesting to know the inside story.

They probably think if the agree to this they can ask the cable companies for higher transmission fees based upon the cable companies "cost savings".
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Broadcom Chips In For Power-Saving HD DTAs, Web Gateways
Claims Next-Gen Products Can Cut Energy Usage Up to 65% Over Typical Day

By Todd Spangler -- Multichannel News, 3/12/2012 8:02:24 AM

Broadcom is touting its next-generation chips for Internet-enabled cable gateways and HD digital terminal adapters as not only being chock-full of new features -- but also greener than ever.

The chip maker claims its two new system-on-chip solutions, one for gateways and the other for HD DTAs, can reduce energy consumption up to 65% over a 24-hour period. That's thanks to power-management features that put the devices into "stand-by" mode when they're not being actively used.

To date, operators including Comcast have deployed 40 million DTAs with Broadcom chips throughout North America. The relatively low-cost devices are designed to let MSOs eliminate analog TV signals, by converting digital signals to analog outputs.

Broadcom's fifth-generation DTA chip, 40-nanometer EZ-HD DTA system-on-chip, provides twice the performance of the company's previous 65-nm DTA SoC, said Brett Tischler, senior marketing manager for cable set-top boxes at Broadcom.

The BCM7574 chip has more graphics-processing power to be able to render full-featured interactive guides on DTAs, which typically have been limited to displaying the channel number on the screen. The new chip also can enable connectivity for DLNA applications, pending approval from the Federal Communications Commission, which has restricted the kinds of features it allows in DTAs under its integrated-encryption ban.

"It lets operators deploy more advanced user interfaces and more advanced application frameworks to offer more compelling visual experience," Tischler said.

The chip's power-management features are based on a dedicated component that monitors when it can shut down system features.

At full power, an HD DTA will consume under 5 watts, but in standby mode DTAs with the BCM7574 will use less than 100 milliwatts. The new platform supports the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Energy Star 4.0 requirements, according to Broadcom.

An estimated 45 million analog TVs in North America were still in use among cable TV customers at the end of 2011, according to In-Stat Research. "There is still a very large footprint of devices that need to be converted to HD," Tischler said.

As with its previous DTA chips, the BCM7574 is a universal DTA with integrated security for both Cisco Systems and Motorola headend networks. The chip also provides audio-leveling features designed to help operators comply with the Commercial Advertisement Level Mitigation (CALM) Act, which mandates constant volume across commercials, programs and channels.

Separately, Broadcom is introducing the BCM7435, which it claims its the industry's first 40-nm dual-core hybrid gateway SoC that includes a Web domain security function -- so that Internet applications don't crash the device.

Now, cable operators can provide traditional video services and Web applications in a common delivery system.

"Instead of having two chips and two data streams delivering separate content, on a single screen the subscriber will see seamless convergence of services," said Joe Del Rio, associate director of marketing for Broadcom's cable set-top box business.

The security function ensures that "the Internet applications won't interfere with the high-value subscription TV," Del Rio said.

The 7000-DMIPs dual-core, quad-thread chip provides twice the overall processing power of Broadcom's prior-generation gateway chip, and a threefold improvement in rendering 3D graphics, according to Broadcom.

The SoC also can transcode up to four video streams simultaneously and transmit them wirelessly to multiple devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Moreover, the BCM7435 supports up 22 video streams -- providing the ability to deliver live TV and recorded programs to multiple screens in the home.

Like the DTA chip, the BCM7435 provides advanced power-management capabilities, to drop to under 250 milliwatts in standby mode, according to Del Rio.

However, the chip does not include integrated DOCSIS features. For that, Broadcom supplies the BCM 3383 8x4 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem chip set.

The HD DTA and gateway chips are sampling with customers now, Broadcom said.

The company is showing off both products at the 2012 CableLabs Winter Conference in Philadelphia, which runs March 11 to 13. The conference is open only to CableLabs members and invited vendors.
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Broadcom Helps Cable Operators Go OTT

March 12, 2012 | Jeff Baumgartner

Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) has developed low-end and high-end cable set-top box system-on-chips (SoCs) that support traditional digital QAM video as well as over-the-top (OTT) content.

Doing more with DTAs
On the low end is an integrated chipset for a new breed of hi-definition Digital Transport Adapter (DTA) devices that cable operators will deploy widely as they reclaim valuable analog spectrum by putting most, if not all, of their channels in a digital format.

Broadcom, which has shipped more than 40 million DTA chipsets (mostly of the standard-definition variety), says its fifth-generation DTA silicon is the first to use 40nm technology as it looks to cut the device's bill of materials and power consumption. Broadcom isn't quoting costs, but multiple MSOs have told Light Reading Cable that they expect to buy HD-DTAs for less than $50 per unit.

Brett Tischler, Broadcom's senior manager of marketing for cable set-top boxes, expects that the "vast majority" of DTAs shipping in the next 12 months will be HD-capable.

Perhaps the more intriguing and controversial addition is integrated Ethernet, a component that could turn HD-DTAs into more advanced hybrid boxes that can source over-the-top content or connect to a DVR or video gateway that is hooked up to a home network. That's probably an option for MSOs outside the U.S. early on, because it's likely that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would have to approve the use of an Ethernet-capable DTA. Those DTAs, like their predecessors, rely on integrated security rather than a removable CableCARD or downloadable encryption system. The FCC's ban on integrated security set-tops took effect in July 2007.
Securing the gateway
On the high end, Broadcom has introduced the BCM7435, a new SoC for hybrid IP/QAM video gateways that adds firewall-like security to ensure the device is shielded from malware or viruses.

The new "security oversight engine" in the BCM7435 keeps tabs on any rogue elements that could wreak havoc, says Joe DelRio, Broadcom's associate director of marketing for cable set-top boxes.

Why this matters
A component with firewall-like capabilities will be key as MSOs deploy hybrid boxes that can support Internet applications and services delivered from beyond their typical "walled gardens." Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s X1 platform, for example, isn't expected to allow any content from the open Internet but will support approved third-party apps, including Facebook and Pandora Media Inc.

DTAs, once considered simple channel-zappers, continue to add more advanced features with each new generation. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has been wary of DTAs from the start, fearing that MSOs will end up using versions that can support DVRs, video-on-demand (VoD) and other more advanced apps. Look for a big challenge from the retail consumer electronics industry if any U.S. cable operators shoot for a waiver that would let them deploy Ethernet-capable HD-DTAs.
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Comcast's Strategy Chief Calls a Power Play

March 15, 2012 | Jeff Baumgartner

PHILADELPHIA -- It's high time the cable industry started watching its wattage, insists a top Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) executive.

Mark Coblitz, Comcast's SVP of strategic planning, is calling on the cable industry to forge a new long-term energy management strategy as MSOs continue with their IP video migrations and shift more services and apps into the cloud, including network DVRs.

Speaking here at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) 's Smart Energy Management Initiative (SEMI) Forum, Coblitz urged MSOs and suppliers to factor energy requirements at the "design phase," warning that the cable sector's ability to grow and manage its costs is at risk, because current energy policies and today's broadband networks are ill-equipped to handle all of the power-sucking services that lie ahead.

Full article at:
some stuff is underway
Jeff Baumgartner

Should add here that cable isn't starting from scratch the vision Coblitz presented. SCTE CEO Mark Dzuban noted that the Society has several standards underway to help address cable's energy needs or optimize its energy programs (17 projects total).

On the access network, CCAP also looks to save space and power by combining CMTS and edge QAM capacity in a much denser device, but any significant deployments of that are likely at least a year away.

Also, CableLabs just kicked off an effort last year dedicated to improving energy efficiency in set-top boxes and other CPEs and an Energy Lab to support that initiative. So cable's definitely looking for some serious collaboration inside and out of the industry to make this happen.

But cable wants to do more before it's a problem it can't react to. "This is a critical to us and an issue that we need to head off," Coblitz added in a follow up panel going on here.
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Cable Tackles Impending Energy Crisis

March 16, 2012 | Jeff Baumgartner

The cable industry has determined that its demand for power will outstrip capacity in five to 10 years, adding risk to its ability to grow the business. But right behind that comes the hard part: Doing something about it.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) SVP of Strategic Planning Mark Coblitz called on the cable industry to create a long-term energy plan on Thursday at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Smart Energy Management Initiative (SEMI) Forum in Philadelphia. His vision doesn't include the formation of yet another cable joint venture like Canoe Ventures LLC or PolyCipher LLC .

"I'm not convinced [the initiative] needs an organization at all," Coblitz said in an interview with reporters following his keynote. Instead, he hopes MSOs, their suppliers, utility companies and even other types of network operators can get behind an idea that he hopes to implement over the next five to 10 years. There's no one person in charge of the effort, but Coblitz will be one of its top evangelists.

"It's more about a mindset," he said, noting that this isn't just about feeling good about being green, but about solving an issue that puts cable's future as a business at risk.

But cable organizations such as the SCTE, CableLabs and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) will all be pitching in on various elements, such as setting standards and specifications and turning energy management into bona fide business requirements. Having Comcast get the ball rolling automatically gives the effort some serious scale.

In a follow-up panel, MSOs and programming execs alike agreed that creating a common language and metrics for energy management and establishing best practices will be an important early step.

Without those baseline, common metrics, it's impossible to do apples-to-apples comparisons, noted Steve Bradley, director of engineering and sustainability at Cox Enterprises.

Blind cable with science
Coblitz also insists that "some actual science" and true innovation -- not just marginal improvements -- will be required to pull this off.

John Schanz, Comcast's EVP and chief network officer, likewise challenged vendors to come up with "breakthrough thinking," down to the chip level. "This is a big apple to chew on across the ecosystem," he said. And there's a good chance that vendors will take heed -- Schanz, after all, is the guy at Comcast who's buying all this equipment.

And cable, Coblitz said, faces a challenge that the likes of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Facebook and Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) don't, even with their power-hungry data centers. Comcast has data centers, too, but they can be repositioned to areas that can provide adequate power. Comcast's massive (and local) access networks and their thousands of hubs and nodes don't have that luxury.

Coblitz likened this crisis to the one that cable identified with IPv6. Comcast, he said, predicted with good accuracy that IPv4 addresses would run out in 2011 or 2012, when it made the transition to a strategic imperative in 2004. Comcast saw IPv4's address depletion as a potential growth-killer based on the surge of IP-connected devices Comcast anticipated seeing join its broadband network down the road. It was that sort of thinking that also pushed CableLabs to include IPv6 as a required ingredient in Docsis 3.0 gear.

Comcast's migration to IPv6 didn't happen overnight, and Coblitz believes cable's energy crisis won't be solved that quickly, either. "This isn't going to be done in 2014. ... This isn't about instant gratification," he said.
RussB's Avatar RussB
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03-19-2012 | Posts: 2,180
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Note: See the underlined sentence in the article for the connection with Comcast.

Intel Plucks 'Berryville' Chip For Set-Tops, Gateways
Silicon Supplier Aims at Broadcom With New 32-Nanometer CE5300 Processor

By Todd Spangler -- Multichannel News, 3/19/2012 8:04:00 PM

"Intel, claiming to leapfrog the performance of chips currently shipping from Broadcom, is launching its fourth-generation system-on-chip for set-tops and media gateways that provides rich graphics comparable to a PlayStation3.

The Intel Atom CE5300, previously code-named "Berryville," is the chip maker's first 32-nanometer SoC, featuring a dual core with hyperthreading and virtualization, an advanced 3D/2D graphics engine, integrated power management, and an H.264 hardware encoder.

Keith Wehmeyer, general manager for Intel's set-top box platforms group, says the Berryville processor -- which is available in quantity today -- delivers 30% to 40% better performance compared with Broadcom's most recently announced SoC solutions.

"We've more than doubled the [central processing unit] performance with the CE5300," he said. "Today's set-top boxes are probably the most underperforming devices in the home."

Initial testing by Intel indicates the chip delivers performance comparable to a PlayStation3 game console, Wehmeyer added.

Intel restructured its Digital Home Group in early October. The company phases out its products for "smart TVs," such as those powered by Google TV platform -- but also formed the Service Provider Division, which targets solutions for service providers.

Operators including Comcast, France's Free, Liberty Global's UPC, Numericable and Telecom Italia have announced or launched products on Intel silicon. Comcast, for example, is gearing up for a launch in 2012 of the Xfinity X1 service, which uses a Pace set-top with Intel's CE4200 processor (known as "Groveland").

The more powerful CE5300 enables new applications, such as gesture controls, high-performance gaming, two-way videoconferencing and "sync-and-go" video transcoding for viewing on tablets or other mobile devices.

Intel's forthcoming Puma 6 chip, which provides DOCSIS 3.0 support for up to 1 Gigabit per second of bandwidth and up to six MPEG tuners, will be sampling later this year. The Puma 6, combined with the CE5300, is aimed at "headed" gateway solutions. Intel acquired the Puma line of DOCSIS silicon from Texas Instruments in 2010."
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CableLabs®-Energy Lab Tests Verify Significant Set-Top Power Savings from "Light Sleep" Mode

LOUISVILLE, Colo., March 19, 2012Digital set-top boxes being deployed by the U.S. cable industry this year are projected to offer energy savings of 20 percent or more when the devices shift into a new "light sleep" mode, according to recent evaluations by CableLabs - Energy Lab.

As part of a major new cable industry energy conservation initiative announced last fall, the six largest U.S. cable companies, serving approximately 85 percent of U.S. cable households, committed to deployment of a "light sleep" option for new set-top boxes beginning in September 2012. Some of those deployments already are under way. To further accelerate energy savings in the millions of existing digital set-top boxes, the operators will also begin providing software upgrades this fall to set-tops boxes already in consumer homes to enable light sleep in models capable of the functionality.

Measurements taken from the new CableLabs - Energy Lab show the significant improvement in average overall power consumption when the new software shifts the set-top boxes into a "light sleep" mode when they are not in active use. "Light sleep" refers to a lower-power condition that allows essential activities within a set-top box to continue while energy consumption associated with other tasks, such as channel tuning and video display, is discontinued.

"Our CableLabs Energy Lab test measured further reductions of 20 percent or more by implementing light sleep," said Ralph Brown, CableLabs Chief Technology Officer. "Applying EPA estimates for how long a typical set-top powers down and the average energy savings we measured, this indicates annual energy savings of about 35 kilowatt hours per set-top. We anticipate that operators will have more than 10 million set-top boxes in light sleep operation by the end of this year."

"We applaud the cable industry's initial efforts to reduce the energy consumed by its set-top boxes and look forward to even greater efficiency gains in the future. Due to this light sleep initiative, more than 10 million installed DVRs will now use 20 to 30 percent less energy when they are not being used. This one change alone will save consumers over $44 million per year in electricity costs," said Noah Horowitz, Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The increased energy efficiency for new model set-top boxes will build on the strides in recent years by cable operators to utilize devices with dramatically lower energy consumption than previous generations of equipment. Some of the cable industry's efforts to improve energy efficiency include:

ENERGY STAR compliance. The vast majority of the set-top boxes purchased by the largest cable operators comply with ENERGY STAR power consumption limits and continue to improve in energy efficiency. For example, a current model ENERGY STAR 3.0-compliant high-definition DVR now in use consumes less than half of the energy but provides more processing power and home-networking capabilities than the 40+ watt HD DVRs introduced 10 years ago.
Low-power adapters. In cable markets that have converted to all digital systems, operators are providing customers with small digital transport adapters (DTAs) that use less than four watts.
New technologies. Cable operators continue to create new services that decrease the home's overall energy profile such as: digital-only tuners; home networking and whole-home DVR; network- and cloud-based delivery that allows the processing and storage power of the network to be shared across many consumers; and video services delivered via Internet Protocol (IP) directly to tablets and gaming stations without the need for a set-top box.

In addition, cable operators providing service to approximately 85 percent of U.S. cable customers have committed to ensure that by the end of 2013 at least 90 percent of all new set-top boxes they purchase and deploy will be ENERGY STAR 3.0 devices.

The CableLabs findings about power consumption savings from "light sleep" are based on measurements of three commonly used brands of digital set-top boxes from prominent cable industry suppliers, each running electronic program guide (EPG) software that represents the majority of U.S. cable-EPG deployments and tested on cable headends maintained at CableLabs. CableLabs - Energy Lab is continuing its tests with additional variations of digital set-top boxes and software offerings later this year.

"The CableLabs - Energy Lab and related initiatives reflect our member companies' determination to play a leading role within the telecommunications industry in energy conservation and stewardship," said Paul Liao, President and Chief Executive Officer of CableLabs. "Our findings around light sleep power consumption represent the product of a significant technology assessment effort by CableLabs, and reflect the ongoing innovations of the community of cable industry manufacturers, all of which will benefit cable companies and their customers alike."
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03-21-2012 | Posts: 2,180
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Comcast Issues CCAP RFP

Light Reading Cable - March 21, 2012
Jeff Baumgartner

"Comcast Corp. has issued a request for proposal (RFP) for Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) equipment as the MSO prepares to begin small-scale field trials and deployments of the super-dense architecture later this year, a Comcast exec revealed here Tuesday.

Jorge Salinger, Comcast's VP of access network architecture, said during his keynote that the RFP follows the MSO's ongoing CCAP operational-readiness trial, and that the cable operator hopes to select some equipment later this year for initial deployments.

"Beyond 2012, we'll be deploying CCAP devices almost exclusively," he said, adding that Comcast plans to redeploy legacy CMTS and edge QAM gear in other systems as it begins to introduce CCAP in some markets.

As a reminder, CCAP combines the functions of the cable modem termination system (CMTS) and the edge QAMs, allowing for the co-mingling of cable's Docsis IP and QAM traffic. The density of the space- and power-reducing platform is expected to help speed cable's migration to IP video and ease the deployment of new services, such as network DVRs.

Salinger confirmed that the MSO's RFP covers the all-in-one, integrated CCAP chassis, as well as a more modular, "non-routing" implementation that will let cable operators deploy a new generation of dense edge QAM devices and use them in downstream-only mode. (See Cable Rethinks 'Modular' CCAP .)

It's not yet known who will respond to the RFP, but likely candidates will include all manner of CMTS and edge QAM vendors, such as Arris Group Inc., Casa Systems Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., CommScope Inc., Harmonic Inc. and Motorola Mobility Inc. Comcast will test the gear in its own labs as makes its early equipment selections. In the meantime, CableLabs is developing a CCAP qualification testing program for the cable industry.

Ahead of the initial deployment, Comcast has been getting its operations ready to support CCAP devices. "It's not a trivial thing … it's more than a box upgrade," Salinger said, noting that the MSO's operational-readiness trial, targeted for completion in mid-2012, has involved "a few service groups" on a total of eight nodes. Comcast is conducting the trial in an undisclosed system in the Northeastern U.S."

In conjunction, Comcast has been emulating CCAP in software to help it develop provisioning and management tools and figuring out how to consolidate the monitoring of its Docsis and video traffic

Jeff Baumgartner's video interview with Comcast's Jorge Salinger (who also mentions the work on EPoC):
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Cable giants on board with CSRIC cybersecurity measures

March 23, 2012 - 12:07 am ET
By Dan O'Shea

Major cable TV broadband service providers, including Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), and other top ISPs have agreed to act on cybersecurity recommendations from the FCC's Communications, Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC).The new measures include a code of conduct for fight botnets, a list of domain name system best practices and methods for dealing with hijacked IP routes.

The Federal Communications Commission had been campaigning for a more unified industrywide cybersecurity effort, and applauded this week's action. The anti-botnet code of conduct calls for the industry to undertake better efforts to educate consumers on botnet attacks, as well as warn their customers of botnet infections that occur on their computers, and help them resolve such infections.

That may be nothing different than any broadband service provider's claim that they have been ready to do this all along, though most consumers like still think of a company like Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) or Norton as their first call, figurative speaking, in the event of a security breach.

The DNS best practices called for include the adoption of the DNSSEC security protocol, which many service providers already adhere to. The third recommendation, for an Internet route hijacking framework, is aimed at reducing the number of events in which traffic is misdirected through potentially unsavory networks.

For more:
-read this PC World story:
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03-26-2012 | Posts: 2,180
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A New Path to Moving Faster: Comcast's RDK'

By Leslie Ellis, Technology Analyst
Multichannel News - March 26, 2012

On the scale of winces, the query that redlines to instant grimace for cable engineers is this: Why does it take so long to get new TV services to market?

Lots of reasons, but this week's translation will hone in on the silicon part of the equation. Right now, after an MSO asks for new features at the silicon level, they wait for samples. After that, they wait, for those chips to be built into boxes. Then, they wait as those boxes get loaded with developmental code.

Then, the waiting ensues for middleware stacks, followed by more waiting for the new service - whatever it is - to be written or modified to run.

It's a lot of waiting. From start to finish, the process can take as long as two years. And that's if everything goes well. Too long, too long, everyone mutters - technologists included.

That's why Comcast is taking a different approach, quietly launching what it calls RDK - for Reference Development Kit - so that systemon- a-chip (SOC) providers (think Broadcom, Intel, and their ilk) can spin cable-ready silicon.

The intent is to shave as much as a year off the time it takes to launch a new set-top or gateway. How? By starting the work of porting before the chip samples even come back from the factory, then quickly preparing a reference platform box, then moving to development. Weeks, not months.

Broadcom described its plans to support the RDK in a January announcement: The Comcast RDK is a pre-integrated software bundle that powers Tru2way, IP or hybrid set-top boxes developers using Comcast's RDK can create rich, multiscreen TV home experiences.

It's happening now. The RDK will be aboard Broadcom's BCM7425 chip; it is already on board the Intel Groveland chips being used in the MSO's Parker boxes, rolling out in Augusta, Ga.

What's in the RDK? Lots of stuff. The short list: A CableLabs Reference Implementation (RI) for OCAP and Tru2way, Java Virtual Machine (JVM), video proxy, Gstreamer (a video pipeline framework), QT/webkit (a windowing and browser framework), and support for optional items like Adobe Flash, Microsoft's Smooth Streaming HD and DTCP (Digital Transmission Content Protection).

In software-speak, the RDK is not unlike a Linux distro (distribution) - a bundle of source code, drivers, and objects piled into an SOC to help manufacturers (and operators) get to market more quickly.

The RDK follows a community source model, which means anyone who licenses the RDK is obligated to feed any improvements or bug fixes to all other licensees. (Yes, this is a cable first.)

How much? It's royalty-free to chip and hardware manufacturers, as well as other service providers that may want to use it.

Watch for RDK and its lingo - SOC, distro, all of the tech-talk components - to become a much bigger deal later this year.
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The Case for EPON-Over-Coax & CCAP Coexistence

Light Reading Cable - March 26, 2012
Jeff Baumgartner

"Cable's access network may be taking different angles on how to address the future demands of residential and business services, but cable engineers insist that those efforts -- Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) and EPON Over Coax (EPoC) -- will be complementary, not competitive.

EPoC is "definitely complementary" to CCAP, said Jorge Salinger, Comcast Corp.'s VP of access network architecture, last week. "EPoC gives us an alternative to having to deploy fiber to every premises."

While CCAP is a super-dense device that combines the functions of the cable modem termination system (CMTS) and edge QAM to help put all of cable's residential services under the IP umbrella, EPoC is a budding IEEE Communications Society standard that aims to bring PON speeds to hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) and primarily target business-class services.

Comcast has already issued a request for proposal for CCAP equipment as it prepares for some small-scale deployments later this year.

John Chapman, a Cisco Systems Inc. fellow and CTO of the vendor's CMTS business unit, said during his keynote that Docsis still has plenty of gas in the tank and uses different components, but agrees that EPoC and CCAP should play nice together because they addresses different market opportunities although they will live in different neighborhoods on the cable frequency spectrum. "It's really a usage scenario," he said.

A CCAP device will be capable of taking in Ethernet and outputting Docsis or PON. "EPoC gives us a simplistic view on how to approach the network at the edge," Cox Communications Inc. Senior Director of Network Architecture Jeff Finkelstein said in a panel last week. "
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Comcast Won't Cap Xbox 360 Streaming

Light Reading Cable - March 26, 2012
Jeff Baumgartner

"Video-on-demand (VoD) content streamed to the Microsoft Corp. Xbox 360 won't count against Comcast Corp.'s monthly 250GB broadband usage caps, the MSO revealed in new FAQ (» It is getting ready to launch its Xfinity TV app on the popular gaming console in the next week or so, according to Engadget. Comcast's reasoning: The MSO is piping VoD to the console using its private IP network and not the public Internet. The MSO's site and Xfinity TV app for devices such as the iPad are streamed via the public Internet, so usage for those does count toward the bandwidth cap.

To be eligible for the Xbox 360 app, Comcast customers must subscribe to the MSO's Internet and digital video service, take Microsoft's Xbox Gold Live package and have a cable box or CableCARD-enabled retail device connected to at least one TV in the house. Comcast won't let customers access Xfinity TV on the Xbox 360 from another Internet provider, but says it's working on a way to allow that. Comcast's FAQ adds that it "will evaluate" whether to add linear channels and transactional VoD titles (Verizon Communications Inc., for example, offers a subset of live channels via the Xbox 360)."
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Comcast opens largest Xfinity Customer Center

By Dan O'Shea
March 27, 2012

Cable TV companies in recent years have taken steps to improve what had been an infamous legacy of poor customer service. Those efforts include a multitude of different measures, and for Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) one of those measures is to reimagine its customer service centers.

The cable TV giant just opened one of its new customer service centers--and the largest to date, at 4,500 square feet--last week in Colorado Springs.

Called Xfinity Customer Centers by Comcast, the new centers have eliminated perhaps the one thing customers hate most about visiting a cable TV service center: standing in line. Well, customers still have to wait in a line, but now it's a virtual line, as each customer is greeted at the door and has their name entered on an iPad and displayed on a screen. Then, they can walk around the Comcast store within the service center to try out new products such as 3D TVs until their name comes up on the screen and they are personally greeted by a customer consultant.

The reimagining of the Comcast customer experience seems to be all about personalized treatment and the illusion that one isn't really waiting in line at all. CED reports that Comcast hopes to have an Xfinity Customer Center open in Denver later this year. It already has the new centers in Seattle, Cromwell, Conn., Baltimore, and Katy, Texas.

For more:
- see the news release:

- read this CED story:
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Comcast launches cloud-based hosted PBX

By Dan O'Shea
March 28, 2012

Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), like other cable TV operators, has done pretty well jumping into business services, making as much of an impression in that segment has they have in the residential voice arena.

Comcast still may face an uphill battle in the business market, but it can improve its lot by continuing to innovate, and it did just that yesterday with the announcement of a new cloud-based hosted PBX service called Business VoiceEdge.

All service providers are trying to figure out how to leverage the cloud, but not all of them are being this aggressive about it. With the new offering, Comcast is looking to help small and medium-sized businesses skip the sizable equipment investment that can come with new voice and unified communications solutions.

The company has launched Business VoiceEdge across most of its 14-state Northeast Division, as well as Chicago, and hopes to go nationwide by the end of this year.

For more:
- see this release
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Comcast, Time Warner Cable don't go for HBO Go on Xbox

By Dan O'Shea
Fierce Cable
March 28, 2012

Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) subscribers undoubtedly were happy this week when they found out that Xfinity on Demand content delivered over their Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Xbox would not count toward their bandwidth usage caps. But, it turns out that Comcast and Microsoft may not be best buddies just yet, and that Comcast still wants to maintain control over what content Xbox viewers are allowed to see and how.

HBO Go launched on Xbox yesterday, but neither Comcast nor Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) users are allowing access to it via Xbox. HBO Go is available through most Xbox service provider partners, but not these companies in particular, though their users can get access to HBO on Demand.

Comcast does offer HBO content through its mobile TV viewing applications, and may be trying to steer users to its own applications, and more specifically to its Xfinity on Demand Xbox application, which reportedly was set to launch this week and may include more HBO content.

For more:
-read this post at The Verge:
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And why is that exactly? What's wrong with HBO Go on the Xbox, especially from TWC's point of view since the parent company owns the freaking channel? You have to have an HBO sub to get it, after all.
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Cable Plots Its IP Video Path

By Alan Breznick
Light Reading Cable - March 30, 2012

TORONTO -- With the cable industry clearly headed toward an IP video future, the big question for cable engineers now is how to make that transition as smooth and easy as possible.

Speaking at the fourth annual Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Canadian Summit here this week, top engineering executives from Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI), Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks agreed that they view IP video as the best way to deliver more advanced features and applications to subscribers, such as multi-screen services, interactive TV applications and converged services. In a wide-ranging session, they also said they see IP video as the way to reach the rapidly growing number of new IP-enabled devices, including smart TVs, game consoles, tablets and smartphones.

"Comcast is very bullish on IP," said Raymond Celona, senior vice president of national engineering and technical operations for Comcast Cable. Citing estimates that the average U.S. home will have six IP-enabled devices by 2015, he noted that Comcast has been testing its new IP-enabled service, now known as X1, in Augusta, Ga., and plans to roll it out later this year. (See Comcast IDs Cloud TV Product as 'X1' .)

All four MSO executives said their companies will likely end up deploying some type of IP video gateway in customer homes to serve all these broadband-enabled devices. These gateways will either attach directly to TV sets like current-day cable set-tops or sit in basements or utility closets, and distribute video signals around the home.

Video hybrid on the horizon
But none of the MSO officials expect the transformation to an all-IP home to occur quickly or neatly. Instead, most think that they will be sending legacy QAM video signals to households for some time to come, then using hybrid QAM/IP video gateways in the home to transcode the signals to IP video, at least partly because of the need to serve legacy TV sets that can't be easily upgraded or replaced.

"It's inevitable," Celona said. "It is a hybrid world."

Along the same lines, the four MSO technologists don't see the traditional cable set-top box going away any time soon. Instead, they believe that digital set-tops will linger in homes for the rest of the decade, if not longer.

"The classic set-top will be around for a long time," said Dermot O'Carroll, senior vice president of access networks for Rogers. "There will be a [set-top] device in the home for a long, long time."

Jeff Chen, senior vice president of advanced technology at Bright House Networks, went even further than O'Carroll. "It's a necessary evil," he said of the set-top box. Chen noted that without cable set-tops, consumers would have to switch out their TVs every two or three years because of service and feature upgrades.

Questioned about their budding TV Everywhere ambitions, all four cable executives said their companies are technically ready to serve multiple video devices both inside and outside the home. The only thing stopping them from serving devices anywhere, they said, is that they lack the legal right to beam most programming beyond the home.

"That's not a technical question," said Jim Ludington, executive vice president of Time Warner Cable, which has started serving tablets, smartphones and PCs inside the home and has been chomping at the bit to beam programming to devices outside the home as well. "It's a content question; it's a rights question."

IP video's magic number
Speaking after the panel, O'Carroll said cable operators will need anywhere from eight to 20 Docsis channels to transmit IP video programming to subscribers. He said the range depends upon their node and service group sizes and the extent of their fiber lines. O'Carroll said cable operators may also need another 12 or more Docsis channels to deliver data downstream speeds of 150Mbit/s or greater to subscriber homes.

Some cable engineering executives set the bar for IP video even higher. Speaking on a separate panel at the SCTE conference, John Ulm, a fellow on Motorola Mobility Inc. (NYSE: MMI)'s technical staff, said cable operators will need 24 to 32 QAM channels (roughly 132MHz to 196MHz of capacity) just to place their entire video lineups on IP. Ulm recommended that cable operators start moving in the IP direction by installing specialized transcoding devices or hybrid QAM/IP video gateways in homes and serving the second and third screens in the home.

"The video gateway is part of the migration strategy," he said. "Ultimately, you want the transcoding to be done in the [cable] headend."

Other cable technologists agree. At a cable broadband strategies conference hosted by Light Reading Cable in Denver last week, for instance, former Charter Communications Inc. CTO Marwan Fawaz also estimated that cable operators will need to set aside 24 to 32 QAM channels to replicate their entire video lineups in IP and tack on such new services as network DVRs. (See MSOs Must Bust Out Bandwidth for IP Video Leap.)

In a keynote address, Fawaz, a founding principal of Sarepta Advisors, argued that a full IP simulcast would likely be the easiest transition path for cable operators. But he noted that this heavy bandwidth load could also be the costliest, making the approach a non-starter for some operators. He also noted that it would probably require MSOs to reclaim most, if not all, of their analog spectrum and recycle it for the IP simulcast.

But O'Carroll said the combined bandwidth load for IP video and broadband data may not be as great as many expect. He argued that cable operators may not have to set aside a dozen or more channels for both IP video and high broadband data speeds because customers would likely just use such high speeds to get video content on their own from over-the-top sources. So, he said, operators might be able to get away with lower downstream speeds (and fewer channels) if they start delivering IP video fare.

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