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CableCARD: TiVo Fights The Good Fight

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

  1. Dan203

    Dan203 Super Moderator Staff Member TCF Club

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    Yeah SDV can potentially free up way more bandwidth then H.264. Plus almost all legacy settops can use SDV with nothing more then a firmware update, since it's basically the same technology as VOD. With H.264 a big chunk of settops would need to be replaced which is expensive.
     
  2. truman861

    truman861 New Member

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  3. Bigg

    Bigg Active Member

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    But why bother when the technology is out there to run 200 HDs and 200mbps internet without using SDV? It's also been extremely buggy to date. And you've got idiotic stuff out there like systems that still have ancient analog channels on them and then SDV because they squandered so much bandwidth on analog that they have to use SDV to make up for it. How about doing it right in the first place with no analog and then not needing SDV? There's a zillion different combinations of technology out there, but it looks like the basic order of transition is:

    1. System upgrade to 860mhz or higher
    2. Eliminate analog
    3. MPEG-4
    4. SDV
    5. IP

    4 and 5 shouldn't be needed to this point in the game. Most systems have finished 2 and haven't gotten to 3 yet. Verizon FIOS supposedly just started doing 3, but hasn't gotten very far into it yet. FIOS also started with 1 done, since they built a brand new system in the mid-2000's with 870mhz of bandwidth.

    How many DCTs and DCHs are still out there? Not many. Most are DCXs or newer, which are all MPEG-4 (or the equivalent for those oddball Sci Atlanta systems out there). And besides, if for some crazy reason they didn't just scrap them, they could re-use the DCTs and DCHs as SD DVR boxes for all 5 people who don't have HD yet.
     
  4. Dan203

    Dan203 Super Moderator Staff Member TCF Club

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    There are still a LOT of DCTs in this area. We recently went through a digital transition and I had to go to the office to pick up a box. There was a big line and they were asking people whether their TVs were SD or HD. If they said SD they got an old DCT box. I saw at least 8 go out the door in the brief time I was there. And both my Mom and Sister ended up with one for secondary TVs.
     
  5. nooneuknow

    nooneuknow TiVo User Since 2007

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    Cox Cable...
    Yep, I'm on a full 1GHz Cox RF network, still supporting analog, using SDV, with some MPEG-4 channels, and they did experiment with IP backchannels on their own equipment, prior to SDV.

    On top of all that, they double (sometimes less than, or more than, double) internet speeds for most tiers, yearly. Just recently, my DOCSIS 3 CM started running on all 8 downstream bonded channels, and all four upstream bonded channels, plus 12+ downstream bonded channels in the works. I hear the top tier internet hits Gigabit speeds, and they don't plan on stopping there.

    How many people can say that they have multiple TV channels on frequencies just under 1GHz? It's a real PITA even finding 1GHz rated splitters that will let those channels pass. I even had to exchange a Roamio what worked fine, other than not tuning those 900+ MHz channels.

    The net result is a very finicky RF network, which any little thing can wreak havoc on. It's definitely not very TiVo friendly...
     
  6. JosephB

    JosephB Member

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    Maybe we're talking about two different things. You seem to be talking about a specific company, and I'm referring to the industry as a whole. My local Charter system has been doing SDV for a while (as has TWC and BHN) and is just now going all digital. There's no MPEG-4 on my local Charter system, and I'm not aware of Charter, TWC, or BHN using MPEG-4 at all yet. I have no idea of the bandwidth of my local system, but they haven't been ripping out amps and nodes and replacing coax, and some of the areas of town are very, very old systems so I highly, highly doubt they are anywhere close to 1ghz systems. Plus, they are still distributing old STBs (Cisco in my area, so the DCT/DCX stuff doesn't apply) so MPEG-4 isn't really ready yet.

    Charter has said that part of the reason they are going all digital is to get rid of SDV, which is great. I hope that happens, but I haven't had any trouble out of my tuning adapters.

    MPEG-4 I'm sure will happen eventually but it will be slow. Not even the satellite companies who control every single piece of the chain are 100% MPEG-4.

    And finally, IP video doesn't really have as much to do with bandwidth savings as it does flexibility. By moving to IP video to your TV, they can standardize on the same distribution for both apps on your phone or tablet or xbox as well as their set top boxes. IP-encapsulated video will take the same bandwidth (actually a tiny amount more) than raw MPEG packets over a QAM carrier, if the video is encoded at the same bitrate.
     
  7. Bigg

    Bigg Active Member

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    SD likely wouldn't be affected by an MPEG-4 transition, as the goal is to migrate HD over to MPEG-4. That being said, that's pretty bad that they're still giving those ancient things out.

    That sucks that they're forcing SDV down people's throats while squanding bandwidth on useless analog channels.

    Gigabit would be fiber.

    Wow, that sucks. Sounds like 860mhz may really be the end of the line for QAM plants...

    I'm talking about the whole industry. Some companies have done things better than others. Comcast, although known for some pretty ridiculous compression, has finally done things right, by just killing analog, and not using SDV. They haven't gotten to MPEG-4, however.

    Satellite is all MPEG-4 for HD, and DISH's EA is all MPEG-4 period. They may still be getting feeds in MPEG-2 from the content providers, but they are using MPEG-4 on their entire systems.

    I doubt that the same IPTV streams used for STBs could be used for tablets and other wireless devices. Plus, if that was a big deal, they could always just have a gateway or STB that tunes a QAM channel, re-compresses it, and sends it to a wireless device, or do what they do now, and have two totally different systems. I just don't see much upside to IPTV over QAM.
     
  8. JosephB

    JosephB Member

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    Why couldn't the same IP stream destined for a STB be used for a tablet or phone? Or, more importantly, why couldn't it be used for a Roku or Xbox or other retail device running the MSO's app? For the transition to IP, you have to keep in mind they'd probably replace all CPE, so new set tops for everyone. That's why it will be a slow transition, but it's also why you should forget all the other existing problems that exist today.

    And putting an IP gateway that converts from QAM to IP totally misses the point. The point is to eliminate the QAM infrastructure. The advantage to moving to IP on the delivery-to-TV side is that you can consolidate that with the infrastructure (encoders, modulators, IP distribution, etc) for the delivery-to-mobile/apps world. The whole point is to NOT have two totally different systems.
     
  9. jwbelcher

    jwbelcher New Member

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    It will be consolidated infrastructure in the fact that your DOCSIS modem and STB will both use IP over QAM (your comment about QAM carriers). However, your cable modem will have filters that prevent the TV Multicast to your STB from flooding your wireless networks. While the two will share technology, they will be largely segmented by the type of box able to receive them (STB vs CM). In many ways they will still be two networks such that your Roku or TiVo wont be able to access them w/o a gateway device.
     
  10. JosephB

    JosephB Member

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    At the point that it is IP, the fact that DOCSIS uses QAM carriers is irrelevant. Yes, you'll need different CPE on the internet side if they move to all IP, but you'd need different CPE anyway for the TV set top. I wouldn't be surprised to see a gateway that joined multicast streams on the WAN side and then unicast that IP stream back out on the LAN side. However, that would still allow them to decommission all of the old QAM-based video stuff for a single IP infrastructure on the backend.
     
  11. jwbelcher

    jwbelcher New Member

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    I'd disagree that QAM is irrelevant, but rather it makes it more so. The difference being, these packets once encoded as QAM are no longer routable -- meaning they become frequency. In a large IPTV network, I don't see that you would route (encode) TV traffic with general internet traffic being sent to a single CM. You need dedicated / shared QAM frequencies for broadcast streams so these are available to other premises simultaneously. For this reason, I still see the need to architect how the downward streams are bonded to available frequencies. For broadcast channels I fully expect static multicast meaning the downward streams will be grouped and bonded to a dedicated RF. The CM in the STB will then will tune the necessary frequency for the requested IP stream. In some ways, it will look like a traditional broadcast network. Its hard to see the upside, since the same bandwidth hurdles will still exist, this could be why FiOS is still using MPEG encoding. I don't see going to IP making anything easier on the network side because of the network topology. However, all that should be transparent on the residence side and make for cheaper CPE.
     
  12. telemark

    telemark New Member

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    That FCC filing was well written.

    I don't mean to take away from it, but it reminds me when I get into reading through a lot of the FCC documents, I start questioning is the whole thing hopeless. Because I feel there's a huge disconnect between the state of affairs as reported in the commission documents and what I get in the real world when I talk to virtually any cable company employee.

    Most my disagreements would inevitably degrade into me citing FCC requirements but so far that has never worked in making any Comcast employee do anything differently.

    Is this just me misinterpreting, or is it well understood the cable companies will just ignore and break the rules (until?) ?
     
  13. sbiller

    sbiller Active Member

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    If it wasn't for the Congress and the FCC, we wouldn't have retail access to cable signals, albeit crippled, today. Just look internationally and you'll see a market where a consumers only choice is to lease a box from the operator or look at AT&T U-Verse, DIRECTV or Dish for examples of MVPDs today where consumers don't have a choice. I'm hopeful that the Tom Wheeler Commission will see the light that the cable operators are attempting to mislead and move towards a crippled app-centric world where our capabilities to consume cable content is limited and controlled by the operator. The current Media Bureau Chief, Bill Lake, extolled the virtue of "common reliance" (i.e., a nationally portable security standard) during recent testimony to a Senate Committee. As a huge fan of "House of Cards", I'm hoping that the cable lobbying efforts led by the NCTA will not be successful.
     
  14. dlfl

    dlfl Cranky old novice

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    Human nature 101. As a child did you always obey every rule your parents set when they weren't around to enforce them? There is no business incentive for support of TiVo's as required by FCC regs. And the enforcement mechanism is puny at best. (Write a letter to the FCC and they might write a letter to the Cable Co. -- wow!) Meanwhile the cable executives and their lawyers are having dinner meetings with FCC officials and contributing to campaigns. And they create glowing reports "documenting" compliance so everyone has a clean record to stand on.

    But it could be worse. We could spend $billions on a cable police force. This would put us that much further in debt and its primary result would be providing employment for a few thousand cable police. Because the paycheck is the highest priority, trumping performance by a large margin in government agencies. (Human nature 101 again).
     
  15. ftg

    ftg New Member

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    Regarding cable companies and CableCards.

    I recently came across a Comcast cable box for sale in a thrift store. (I know. Not supposed to see that.)

    Anyway, I could clearly see a CableCard thru the air vents. I checked later at home on the model number and indeed it does use a standard M-card for authorization. Other cable companies also used this box.

    So cable companies themselves saw the advantage of CableCards and used them. But that is the past.
     
  16. Dan203

    Dan203 Super Moderator Staff Member TCF Club

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    Cable comanies are required to use CableCARDs. That's the "common reliance" portion of the law. The reason their boxes don't have trouble while many TiVos do is because they preauthorize those CableCARDs through a completely different system then the one used for retail devices. So while they are technically using the same technology the experience from the user perspective is rarely the same.
     
  17. jwbelcher

    jwbelcher New Member

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    I've never heard how they get by with the digital adapters - like the Cisco DTA 170HD - not having a CableCard for conditional access. Any ideas why they're allowed w/o cablecards vs a traditional set-top box?
     
  18. Dan203

    Dan203 Super Moderator Staff Member TCF Club

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    There is probably a CableCARD inside. As far as I know there are no waivers that allow them to deploy a box without a CableCARD.
     
  19. jwbelcher

    jwbelcher New Member

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    I actually have two of these and there's definitely not one inside. You have to look through the grates, but its just a circuit board + tuner. The thing is tiny too. I'd really doubt that a PCMCIA interface and CableCard could fit without increasing its footprint.
     
  20. telemark

    telemark New Member

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    I just meant that there are prior FCC rules that are "wins" but on the streets it's murkier. So I wanted hear your wise perspectives if that was a bigger problem. Obviously, during rule making and comment periods is the best time to lobby for proper policy in the first place. Thanks to all for continuing the fight.

    Ya, I saw such a cablebox in a recycling pile. I suspect a number of the ebay CableCards must be pulls from retired or dead boxes. Which makes me question the NCTA. The CableCard encryption mandate should have saved them significant money in development costs over the years, but they're just harping about increased costs. The only way I can think it could increase costs is if chip integration has gotten to the point that the newest DTA's are single chip boards. Yet even if they are, at least for Comcast they lowered the grade of encryption to be able to support it.

    I think the mpeg4 transition is going to occur faster than people realize. The chip differences between an mpeg2 and mpeg4 decoder is small, and it's cheaper to license just one of them. That will cover the CPE cost issue in a generation or two. Phones, Tablets, Streamers already skipped mpeg2. That just leaves some TV's that are mpeg2 only. TV's that can't effectively decode cable already.

    What we're doing now, putting a transcoder chip in every household to support mobile, is technically cool, but complicated and encoders will always cost more than decoders.
     

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