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CableCARD: TiVo Fights The Good Fight

Discussion in 'TiVo Coffee House - TiVo Discussion' started by sbiller, Mar 31, 2014.

  1. JosephB

    JosephB Member

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    If you think CableCard will be around for decades, with an emphasis on more than one decade, you are simply delusional. Multiple, large cable companies have said that they are going to IP. Not that they want to or wish they could or it would be nice, they are doing it. Even TiVo agrees CableCard needs to die. The problem is what do you replace it with that doesn't completely screw customers with retail devices.

    I know it's easy to think that cable companies are incompetent and just morons who fell into their jobs and you know more than they do, but things like upgrades to 860mhz (which why you picked that arbitrary number and keep harping on it I have no idea) or MPEG-4 cost money. It's not like the folks who run these things are morons. They often, very often, make decisions that are hostile to their customers but it's not because they don't know what they *should* be doing.
     
  2. Bigg

    Bigg Active Member

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    What?

    Maybe a cable company somewhere will go IPTV in the next 30 years, but Comcast/TWC isn't. They are going to be running Sci Atlanta and Moto systems for decades. The install base is too big to do anything beyond 860mhz/MPEG-4 and maybe SDV. They have a lot of upgrades yet to do before they even think about IPTV. They need to standardize their whole system on 860mhz, switch HD to MPEG-4, and regionalize/centralize their modulation/distribution a la Verizon with SHEs and VHOs, which are currently a disorganized system of miniature feudal domains that someone shoestringed and bubble-gummed into a national "network". If Comcast wasn't gobbling up TWC, I would add a full Moto conversion to the list, since Comcast is almost all Moto, but TWC is Sci Atlanta, so Comcast's oddball Sci Atlanta systems will fit in nicely with TWC's Sci Atlanta infrastructure.

    MPEG-4 is relatively cheap. Most boxes already support it, and the few that don't are already way beyond EOL anyways. 860mhz is big bucks, but it needs to be done. They announced that all systems were getting upgraded, and then halfway through the upgrades, they just gave up. They [Comcast] are a disorganized mess. They are homogenizing their offerings from market to market through sheer brute force, by making the same virtual channel numbers that line up (except for some markets not having enough room for all the channels), instead of actually generating the signal for an entire region at one location like Verizon does. Admittedly, Verizon built their entire QAM plant from scratch in the 2000's, and didn't inherit a bunch of hodge-podge systems from predecessors, but still, Comcast should get their **** together and rebuild what needs to be rebuilt. And instead of actually finishing the upgrades, they have made their website impossible to navigate, so it's really hard to see what channels you or another system actually gets.

    860mhz an arbitrary number? Do you have any clue where it came from? It's a 135-channel system. Most analog TV tuners only went to 125 channels, or 800mhz, but with digital systems, most tuned to 860mhz, and later 1ghz. D2 modems can handle up to 860mhz, and a ton of gear was made that specifically handles 860mhz. It's the common upper limit of digital cable systems nationwide, and what Comcast set out to rebuild their entire system to. A number of systems did get rebuilt to 860mhz, then they got lazy and stopped rebuilding. 1ghz is tough to implement, although all D3 modems and every MPEG-4 capable cable box I've ever seen, including TiVo Premiere and Roamio, can handle signals up to 1ghz. Few systems nationwide use 1ghz. Even FIOS's QAM side is spec'ed to either 860mhz or 870mhz.

    The bottom line is that Comcast is a lazy incumbent that doesn't follow through, doesn't care, and is willing to just coast along and lose customers because they know that at the end of the day, they are still basically a monopoly, and they can use anti-competitive de-bundling surcharges where they are an ironclad HSI monopoly to make money one way or another. They've gotten a lot better since the 2008-2011 period, when all the systems around here were stuck with an HD channel selection that looked like DirecTV's in 2005, but they've still got quite a way to go. I find it ironic that my local system, one of the systems that Comcast chose not to rebuild, is overbuilt by a local provider that used to be city-owned. When the local overbuilder wakes up from being asleep at the wheel for 10 years and nukes analog, all of the sudden, they will actually have the full capacity of their 860mhz system and can blow Comcast right out of the water. It also makes it basically impossible for Comcast to use anti-competitive de-bundling surcharges to keep market share, as the overbuilder will sell unbundled internet at a far more reasonable price, making DirecTV a more attractive option as well.
     
  3. Bigg

    Bigg Active Member

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    Comcast is pathetic. I would switch to DirecTV in a heartbeat if they had a legitimate TiVo option.
     
  4. JosephB

    JosephB Member

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    If they have so much work to do and so many upgrades to make and so much infrastructure to rip out and replace, why on EARTH would they ever replace it with the same stuff they just got rid of? Do you not think it would be economical to do the switch to IP now (and by now, I mean, over the next 10 years or so) instead of doing all the crap you just said and then immediately be behind everyone else in the industry and need to rip it out again?

    They're in the situation they are now because of 30-50 years of piecemealing systems together and a hodgepodge mess. If they need to go national, with a new platform, why wouldn't they do it with the newest technology, that they have said they are going to do?

    Either you're a retired cable exec who is 80 years old or you just have no grasp on the state of technology today.
     
  5. Dan203

    Dan203 Super Moderator Staff Member TCF Club

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    Don't forget that they also need the encoders. MSOs don't just pass along the signal as-is from the satellite. They have encoders that convert them, both audio and video, to a consumer friendly format. These encoders cost thousands of dollars each. There is also a bunch of other head end equipment for doing overlays, local ad insertion, etc... that would likely also need to be upgraded. It's much more expensive to make the switch then you might think.

    SDV by contrast is basically free. It uses the same technology as VOD, so very little equipment needs to be replaced to get it working.
     
  6. truman861

    truman861 New Member

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    This is basically what the verizon fios installer explained to me as to why they are no longer expanding the fios market. Basically the ceo doesnt want to dump more money into fios when they will be launching DLNA IP boxes. Makes perfect sense honestly spend the money upgrading customers who dont have fios once to DLNA not twice - fios and then DLNA
     
  7. JosephB

    JosephB Member

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    Well, that doesn't make sense because only half of FiOS is video. The other half is high speed fiber internet, which is exactly what you need for a Video over IP service.

    Verizon has stopped rolling out FiOS because they've gotten cheap and burying fiber costs money.
     
  8. Bigg

    Bigg Active Member

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    Once you rebuild a system to 860mhz, you can run whatever over it. Once you centralize the distribution, future switches in technology, whether it's HEVC or IPTV or anything else related to distributing TV becomes a lot easier. Switching Comcast's whole system to IPTV would be a completely nightmare. You'd need almost entirely new STBs for almost all the customers, including all those DTAs they just pushed out. Going MPEG-2 for SDs, MPEG-4 for HDs, and adding D3 channels just makes sense, as the equipment impact for most customers is absolutely nothing. For the few people that still have DCHs and DCTs, they need to be swapped out, but that's orders of magnitude smaller than swapping everyone's equipment out for something that has QAM and IP capabilities. And they still would have to have QAM tuners and CableCards to work during the transition, since there's no way that there's enough bandwidth to run two different systems over one physical cable plant at once.

    You seem to have this fantasy that their plan is to switch to IPTV. Guess what? That's not their plan. Their plan is to do NOTHING for the foreseeable future. They think that what they have now is "good enough" and they can continue to coast along, and unfortunately, most of their idiot customers have poorly configured, cheap TVs and don't notice the heavy MPEG-2 macroblocking, or realize how many channels they are missing.

    If they were to rebuild today, they'd pretty much build an MPEG-4 version of what Verizon has. QAM is here to stay. No one has yet articulated any benefit to IPTV over QAM for an HFC system, and yet IPTV has massive switching costs that in some markets quite literally amounts to replacing everything except the physical wire in people's houses. Now we'll see if Verizon can make the switch to MPEG-4, they started to, and then they sort of gave up.

    They compress nationally, so it's relatively easy to do from Comcast's side of things. Maybe if they centralized their equipment, they would have an easier time with some of the ancillary stuff like ad insertion.

    In terms of the end user equipment, they could send out a letter, which no one will read, telling people that they need to swap their boxes out, and then to make the transition smooth, go a few QAMs at a time, starting with the least watched channels so that people slowly notice old boxes not getting certain HD channels and get most people who still have the old boxes upgraded over a period of time before doing the major channels. And every time they swap out a QAM, they would have 5 channels of capacity gained for 3 channels lost, netting 2 new channels per QAM.

    Exactly. To expand on that further, they are not expanding FIOS because they and their idiotic investors have the attention span of a 2-year-old who is saying "I WANT IT NOW" and they have lost the ability to see an ROI that might be 20 or 30 years long, even though fiber puts them in the dominant position to compete. It's incredible that they have a service that people will check for before moving somewhere, and yet they are refusing to expand it to new markets.
     
  9. telemark

    telemark New Member

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    Are you arguing there's no advantage to IPTV? IPTV is the end-game. I can agree there's a lot of argument around how, when, what intermediate tech should be adopted to get there, etc. but not adopting IPTV ever, I don't think is defensible.
     
  10. JosephB

    JosephB Member

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    Actually, I've articulated the benefit over and over, but I think Bigg thinks it's still 1996.

    The bottom line is there are obvious benefits, and the cable companies have said publicly that is the direction they're going. As for us TiVo fans it's important to know how open these systems will be and how they are standardized.
     
  11. jwbelcher

    jwbelcher New Member

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    I've read they're able to actually cram more in with channel bonding. Instead of putting 10 digital SD channels or 2 digital HD on a single frequency, they're able to bond across multiple channels and amortize (span) streams across the bonded group. Apparently they're able get greater efficiency that way and can pack more data into the larger virtual pipe.

    This is a pretty good presentation (pg 19) that does a better job explaining it.
     
  12. Diana Collins

    Diana Collins Well-Known Member TCF Club

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    They never buried it around here, they strung it between poles (as they did everyplace else I have seen it). Verizon has stopped expanding FiOS because Verizon has decided that Verizon Wirelesss is the future (particularly since they bought out Deutsche Telecom). They may roll out IP based video distribution, but it will be over 4g-LTE (or something even faster) not over fiber.
     
  13. Dan203

    Dan203 Super Moderator Staff Member TCF Club

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    This is key. The regulation requires that they use an "open" technology, but if they don't standardize on a single technology then TiVo would be required to support multiple technologies in a single box to maintain national portability.

    That's the point of the AllVid/gateway system. It pushes all the MSO specific technology into a single gateway device and then uses a single standard for other devices to be able to talk to the gateway.

    At this point it appears that cable companies are leaning toward DLNA CVP-2, which would be great for users unless they figure out a way to force the RUI on all devices, then we're going to have a problem.
     
  14. Bigg

    Bigg Active Member

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    So if I'm Comcast, what's my upside to IP? I'm looking at QAM, and QAM works, and it would be billion of dollars more to upgrade to IP than even to build out QAM more with MPEG-4 and 860mhz everywhere, and SDV and all that...

    It would help you with SDV, as you'd no longer be limited to a CBR situation per channel, but if you want to run straight linear on QAM, IPTV offers you no advantage. They could easily provide better PQ than today with 5 channels per QAM in MPEG-4.

    Verizon is the one wildcard, as they could already switch some or all content to IPTV with limited disruption to their equipment. The CEO, like many of their childish investors, has the attention span of a gnat, and can't look forward to a 20- or 30-year ROI for fiber, and thus is putting all the eggs in wireless. However, wireless cannot provide TV services, so it's not really relevant to say that it is instead of FIOS technologically. It's two different things. Even home internet access would be nearly impossible to scale over LTE.
     
  15. Diana Collins

    Diana Collins Well-Known Member TCF Club

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    Tell that to Dish Network, who has been running around buying wireless licenses and partnering with a company that can deliver hundred megabit speeds over wireless and negotiating distribution agreements that include wireless IP based delivery rights. Verizon sees FiOS as not much different from traditional wireline technology. They want to be a wireless company.
     
  16. slowbiscuit

    slowbiscuit FUBAR

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    Yep, the future where everyone pays out the ass for broadband usage over wireless.
     
  17. Bigg

    Bigg Active Member

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    That's for low-density rural internet delivery. It won't scale in urban areas, and it certainly won't deliver video.
     
  18. Diana Collins

    Diana Collins Well-Known Member TCF Club

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    Why not? LTE can deliver multi-megabit speeds and we are far from maxing out the potential. WiMAX can deliver gigabit speeds.

    The future of video entertainment is a much more varied place than what we have today. Viewing is not restricted to big screens but includes portable devices - not just as accessories or add on devices but has primary deliver platforms. There will be fewer and fewer linear broadcasts as well, as more and more content moves to on-demand. If there is one thing the last 10 years have taught us it is that the size of the data pipe is a very temporary obstacle.
     
  19. jwbelcher

    jwbelcher New Member

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    No your right, its called LTE Multicast. Its specifically designed to scale for high density areas. Instead of sending multiple copies, it shares one copy of the data over LTE.

    http://www.verizonwireless.com/news/article/2014/01/lte-multicast-verizon-power-house.html

    Btw, this is not for on-demand, this would be more akin to linear broadcast, like FiOS, but over LTE.
     
  20. JosephB

    JosephB Member

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    As long as mobile wireless has draconian usage caps, it will NEVER be a substitute for wireline broadband or current MVPDs.
     

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