Cisco Tuning Adapter STA1520 issue, Spectrum cable

Discussion in 'TiVo Help Center' started by kad7777, Apr 5, 2020.

  1. ma91cs4d

    ma91cs4d New Member

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    Jan 2, 2020

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    Thanks. A couple more things I'm interested to see and I can give you my lengthy spiel about how to fix this.

    1) I'm looking at your 4-way Antronix splitter. You mentioned you have 4 total TV's (One TiVO and 3x Mini's). Do you also have a cable modem, or are you using a different provider for internet? If you do have a cable modem, I need to know how that plays into the setup since it would require another splitter somewhere.

    2) Assuming Spectrum is giving you the minimum signal level required at the drop (0dBmv), you should be losing approximately 10dBmv by the time your Tuning Adapter is connected. Can you post photos of the following diagnostic screens from the Tuning Adapter?
    From the main diagnostic menu...
    Network and Tuning Statuses - Should be 2 pages of information.
    RF Statistics - Should be 2 pages of information.
     
  2. kad7777

    kad7777 Member

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    Mar 20, 2008
    One of the four lines goes to my office then the office line is split. One line to my modem and the other to a Tivo mini
     

    Attached Files:

  3. ma91cs4d

    ma91cs4d New Member

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    Jan 2, 2020
    Thanks. Something I noticed looking at your photos. The fitting on your drop cable is a PPC EX59 which means your drop is likely RG59 cable. This isn't the end of the world, but that type of cable has a thinner center conductor, less shielding, and a higher signal loss when compared with RG6 cable over the same distance. If everything has been working fine until recently, this likely isn't the problem, but at some it should be replaced. That's a common (also hated, and sometimes skipped) troubleshooting step that a cable technician would perform to attempt to resolve signal issues.

    Otherwise, here are some troubleshooting steps you can do on your own. We're going to start with things you can control and work our way up from there.

    1) Loose fittings. These can cause signal loss, ingress, egress, and are bad news for cable systems. Grab a 7/16 wrench and make sure each of your cable fittings are tight. I can see your drop comes into what looks like a basement, so I'm assuming you don't have a demarc box outside. Still, go outside to where the cable enters your house and check the setup. Regardless of whether the cable is buried or comes in from a pole, if it was properly installed there should be a ground block and drip loop in the cable before it enters the house. Make sure the fittings on the ground block are tight. Next, move inside to the 4-way and 2-way splitters and make sure those fittings are snug. Don't over-tighten, just enough that you can't back the nut off with your fingers. Finally, check the connections on your Tuning Adapter, Tivo, and Mini's. Do not use the wrench on these, finger tight is fine. Reboot your tuning adapter and check the signal levels again to see if you notice any improvement.

    2) 2-way splitter bypass. We can find out quickly if this splitter is bad by bypassing it since the tuning adapter has its own output. Remove the 2-way splitter where your TiVo and Tuning Adapter are. Run the cable from your 4-way splitter into the tuning adapter, and a second cable from the tuning adapter to your TiVo. Reboot your tuning adapter and check the signal levels again to see if you notice any improvement. If the 2-way splitter was working properly, you should see the signal levels improve by approximately 2-4dBmv. If they improve by more than that, I would advise replacing that 2-way splitter with a new one.

    If things haven't improved at this point, it's probable that Spectrum changed something in the cable plant which caused your signal level to drop enough that your Tuning Adapter is no longer able to communicate properly. Given the signal and noise levels from your photos, if it was working properly before, you were likely at the very low end of being able to maintain a reliable connection given the signal loss associated with the splitters.

    So, what you do about getting this fixed? You'll need to make a choice between getting Spectrum involved or throwing a little money at the problem.

    Spectrum: I know you've already filed an FCC complaint, so you may opt to wait and see how that plays out. If you've not had a technician out for the issue yet, that's still going to be their first step. If you want to get the ball rolling quicker, I would call their support number, go through the basic troubleshooting over the phone, and let them schedule a technician to come out. I can see your signal and general noise levels from the tuning adapter, but their meters will give them a better idea about whether this is just a low signal issue within your home or an outside plant issue. Assuming they test your connection and don't find anything beyond the low signal at your TiVo and Tuning Adapter, they would likely install a signal amplifier which should get your Tuning Adapter working again. If it's an outside plant issue, be prepared to wait a while.

    DIY: If you're OK with putting about $40 into your setup to get the best quality, you can try this option before having Spectrum come out. From what I can see with your signal levels, this would likely be enough to get you back up and running again and would be the quickest option.
    https://www.amazon.com/Commscope-CSMAPDU9VPI-HomeConnect-Amplifier-Connectivity/dp/B0779YQD38/
    This is a unity gain amplifier and would replace your 4-way splitter. In short, you don't lose signal strength when connecting multiple cable runs like you would with a passive splitter. Every cable run gets the same signal it would have if you connected it directly to the drop. Given that you're losing approximately 11dBmv of signal strength at your cable modem, adding one of these will help your modem communicate better as well. If you decide to go this route, you'll also need a pack of these to terminate any unused outlets - https://www.amazon.com/CIMPLE-CO-Terminator-Resistor-Satellite/dp/B01K6M357Q
     
  4. kad7777

    kad7777 Member

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    Mar 20, 2008
    Can't thank you enough for your time and expertise in helping my situation. And I'm sure it will help many others.
    Will certainly update so those with the same problem may get some help.

    Question:
    If everything was working well before and suddenly now I have issues - if the splitter right before the Tuning Adapter isn't the problem, it's more than likely something Spectrum has done that has changed my signal, correct?
     
  5. ma91cs4d

    ma91cs4d New Member

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    Jan 2, 2020

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    Sure thing. Yes assuming all connections are tight and your splitters are still good, some kind of change in the outside cable plant is the most likely cause. Now that’s not to say of course that there isn’t another technical issue like water in your drop, a squirrel-chewed hardline cable, or a dried/cracked cable jacket outside causing the problem. However, those types of things will often present more symptoms like video pixelation/artifacting or unreliable internet/voice service rather than just a low signal level. Regardless, any decent technician can rule those issues out within an hour and either install a signal amplifier in your residence or put in a ticket with the plant maintenance folks if they find that a tap, line amplifier, or node might need adjusted.

    One reason I suggested adding your own amplifier is because if your signal tests at 0dBmv or better at the drop, that’s the minimum signal they’re required to provide and is within spec for providing service to 4 devices with one 4-way splitter. How you choose to divide up the signal inside the house is technically your problem if too many splits cause signal loss issues. At least in my experience, they’ll usually still install an amplifier to rectify the issue though.

    As you mentioned, most techs are not familiar with the tuning adapters and cable cards these days. However, all of the cable equipment functions based on the same set of principals. If you had a standard cable box, they too have a diagnostic menu with the same signal level and noise indicators that you can pull up on the tuning adapter. If you end up having a tech out, be sure to show them what you’re seeing on the diagnostic menu. In my area, the meters that the field techs carry can’t scan the 10MHz return or the 75MHz forward channels. However, they’re still broadcast in analog and are a bit more forgiving than the higher digital only bands used for TV channels and internet service. Assuming they don’t find any other issues, adding an amplifier should sufficient to bring everything up to where it needs to be.

    If you want, feel free to print out the info and give it to the tech. You may get an eye roll and/or the “just let me do my job” look in return, but it will be easier than explaining everything from scratch. This is all just one guy’s analysis. I’m only a hobbyist/enthusiast and don’t claim to be an expert on any of this, but have done enough research and work with Spectrum to be in the ballpark. Hope they’re able to get you back in business sooner rather than later.
     
  6. dlfl

    dlfl Cranky old novice

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    Dayton OH
    @kad7777 Your FDC (74 MHz) signal level at -18 dBmV is (IIRC) low, and out of spec. I think the spec range is -10 to +10. Your RDC level at 50 dBmV is at the high end of acceptable. Both suggest too much attenuation between your drop and the cable plant. Since these are the signal frequencies used for communication (i.e., processing tuning requests) between the TA and cable plant, they are likely culprits for your problems. Unfortunately, as has already been noted, most techs don’t know much about these signals, and usually don’t have instruments to measure their levels.

    I’m so happy I’ve been Spectrum-tuning-adapter free since 22 Nov 2019! (I suffered with one for 10 years).
     
  7. kad7777

    kad7777 Member

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    Mar 20, 2008
    Thanks for the insight and expertise.
    Question:
    So what you're saying is something farther then my house at the "cable plant" is the culprit. Spectrum "changed, "upgraded" or "whatever" at the cable plant and in turn wreaked havoc on customers like me. This is why any tuning adapter I try has the same result, correct? Nothing on my end screwed up did it?
     
  8. kad7777

    kad7777 Member

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    Mar 20, 2008
    *** slight UPDATE ***

    Got a call from a Spectrum higher up regarding my FCC complaint.
    He scheduled a call back appointment for a couple days from now. He said he wants to try some things.
    He was very apologetic and wanted to assure me he'll do whatever he can to rectify my problem.
    If he does rectify my issue, I'll certainly try to find out exactly what took place to share with the boards.
    Either way, rectified or not, I'll post an update.
     
  9. dlfl

    dlfl Cranky old novice

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    Well, probably but not conclusively. Attenuation in the cabling and connectors inside your house could be the problem. Poor connections can develop due to moisture or mechanical failure. I once had strange behavior fixed by a tech just re-doing the connector in the wall plate at my drop.
     
  10. Kobewan

    Kobewan New Member

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    Jan 27, 2011
    Tried this in a different forum and got no response, but this seems more lively and knowledgeable so here goes. I am Cox customer with TiVo and SDV in Phoenix but we use Cisco 1520 TAs as well.
    I’ve lost all SDV channels on my BOLT and my Roamio Pro. Tried the reboots recommended here and all the usual stuff (been a Cox and Tivo customer since 2011 so This started when I had to unplug the adapters to switch televisions (that is all that changed) and ever since I've not had SDV channels on each. Both tuning adapters simply blink incessantly. The Tivo's wont even recognize there is a tuning adapter. CableCards are working fine, just no SDV channels. On the DVR diagnostics it just says initializing, but neither TA will connect to either TiVo.

    Called Cox and they ran me through the scripts (rebooting both, unplug and re-attach USB's, etc) but nothing happened. They confirmed the boxes are authorized and they "see them" and “reset” the signal. They said, the next step was an in-house service, but they aren't doing in-house service because of COVID so not sure what else to do except to pass to customer support for bill credit for missing channels. Just want to watch the channels, not that concerned about probably 5 or 10 bucks I might get credited until they can come into the house.
    I'm thinking it has to be an issue with the signal coming in since all the issues starting occurring around the time of some "maintenance” in our area as advised via a post-card we got in the mail. Just wondering what they changed during the "maintenance that specifically was going to effect people with tuning adapters? Is their such thing as too "hot" a signal and how would I check this? The signal coming in the house is split 4 ways, then split to the modem and then split to the TA and the TIVO. The signal still reads 100% strength with 41-43 SNR if that means anything for a TA not able to initialize. I’m not sure how to check FDC, RDC or dBmV. Any help or ideas since Cox has shrugged their shoulders?
     
  11. ma91cs4d

    ma91cs4d New Member

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    Jan 2, 2020
    You can check the signal levels of the tuning adapter by accessing the diagnostics menu through the TiVo, but this will only be possible if the TiVo is able to recognize the tuning adapter. Try these steps...
    1) Disconnect the power and USB cable from the Tuning Adapter.
    2) Wait 60 seconds.
    3) Connect the power cable to the Tuning Adapter. Do not plug in the USB.
    4) Allow the Tuning Adapter to boot up completely. Even if it can't lock a signal with your cable provider, it should eventually give up and the light should turn solid green. If it's still blinking after 10 minutes, that normally indicates a fault that can be determined by the number of blinks, followed by a short pause. (i.e. 8 blinks, pause, 8 blinks, pause, etc indicates the Tuning Adapter is in brick mode).
    5) Only after the light turns solid green, reconnect the USB cable between the TiVo and tuning adapter.
    6) After a few seconds you should get the notification from the TiVo that the tuning adapter has been connected.

    If you're able to get it connected, follow the menu prompts to reach the Tuning Adapter Diagnostics menu.
    Main Menu > Settings & Messages > Help > Account & System Info > Tuning Adapter > Tuning Adapter Diagnostics

    From there you should be able to access both pages of the RF Statistics menu.
     
  12. kad7777

    kad7777 Member

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    Mar 20, 2008
    *** UPDATE ***
    Spectrum higher up called precisely at appointment time. Explained to me after looking at all the info he had on my account that the best thing would be to set up a truck roll in my local area with someone that really knows about cable card issues. He's in Buffalo, I'm in Schenectady, NY. He said he would call my local Spectrum area and request a tech that has a lot of knowledge not someone who has "some" knowledge. I explained that I was very concerned about COVID-19 and it may be a while before I call to set up an appointment in which he replied that's absolutely understandable. I asked for his specific office number which he gave me. I asked if Spectrum was still truck rolling and meeting protocols with COVID-19 and he said any tech should be.

    I asked why this issue would all of a sudden happen. He explained it could be something that happened at the head end or cable plant. I asked if he has access to when signals, updates changes, etc to Spectrum happen and he said he did not. He also explained that it could be a loss with the signal via a cable outside getting old, cracked, etc. How the tech will check all the cabling for proper signal strength (etc) to find where the problem lies.

    I requested some compensation for the last three weeks of not being able to see my Digi Tier 1 ($12 per month) and he gave me two months credit.

    My personal opinion at this time will be - a tech gets to my home, finds nothing on Spectrum's end. Wants to put signal boosters in my home and I think that's all BS. If that happens, unfortunately I'll be selling my Tivo equipment
     
  13. dlfl

    dlfl Cranky old novice

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    Dayton OH
    See this post for a chart explaining blink patterns of the STA1520 TA:
    Problems with Cisco STA1520, possibly, 6 flashing lights
    And look at the post following that one for clarification of the 6- and 8-blinks-pause cases.
     
  14. ma91cs4d

    ma91cs4d New Member

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    Jan 2, 2020
    Employees that work in customer service, at the Spectrum stores, call centers, etc don't have anything to do with monitoring or maintaining the cable plant. That's done by an entirely separate department that spends their time either testing and tuning the plant for optimal performance or working maintenance tickets submitted by field technicians. A dedicated department is needed because different aspects of the cable plant are always changing. Much of the wiring and equipment necessary to get the signal to you are exposed to the elements and require constant repair and adjustment. Much like other complex systems, fixing one problem can often inadvertently cause another and that's likely why you're experiencing the issue you are. The layout of equipment necessary to get the signal to your house looks something like this.

    Cable Head End ----->----- Distribution Hub ----->----- Node ----->----- Amplifier ----->----- Tap ----->----- Your House

    For example - if an adjustment is made between the node and the amplifier, any resulting changes, good or bad, are going to be carried down the line and eventually end up at your house. Calculating signal levels at different points down the line after making changes typically allows these maintenance operations to go on without impacting service. The minimum signal they're required to give you at the drop is 0dBmv. By all accounts that's a perfect signal. Not too high and not too low. However, your equipment will generally work fine anywhere between -10dBmv and +10dBmv. Having a signal of 0dBmv at the drop allows you to split your signal 4 ways and allow some extra space for running cable resulting in a level of about -7dBmv at each TV/device.

    Now let's assume that you used to get +3dBmv at the drop and everything was working fine, but something in the plant changed which resulted in you now getting 0dBmv. That's still an acceptable level, but look how it changes things once the signal reaches your equipment with your current splitter set up.

    Before:
    Your House ----->----- 4-Way Splitter ----->----- 2-Way Splitter
    +3dBmv (Loss of 7dBmv) -4dBmv (Loss of 4dBmv) -8dBmv

    After:
    Your House ----->----- 4-Way Splitter ----->----- 2-Way Splitter
    0dBmv (Loss of 7dBmv) -7dBmv (Loss of 4dBmv) -11dBmv

    That 3dBmv difference has now pushed you out of spec even though you're still getting a good signal level at the drop. Based on their calculations, whatever changed shouldn't have affected you, assuming your signal was split 4 ways.

    I'm using these numbers because looking at your tuning adapter, the "Tuner" signal level is showing -11dBmv. Given your splitter configuration, that would mean you're getting about 0dBmv from the drop at 687.00 Mhz.
    So, what about the FDC level being -18dBmv? That's ultimately why the tuning adapter can't connect. The 74.00Mhz band is still broadcast in Analog over the cable system. The tuning adapters are one of the few remaining devices that rely on that band for service. As the signal is analog, it's a bit more forgiving on signal level. Generally -15dBmv to +15dBmv would be acceptable. Again, you're currently showing 3dBmv away from that.

    Now let's look at the setup if we add an amplifier into the mix...

    Your House ----->----- Amplifier ----->----- 4-Way Splitter ----->----- 2-Way Splitter
    0dBmv (Gain of 15dBmv) +15dBmv (Loss of 7dBmv) +8dBmv (Loss of 4dBmv) +4dBmv

    What I'm getting at is this - if they don't find any issue in the plant and they want to install a free signal amplifier in your house to fix the problem, by all means let them. No reason to dump all of your equipment for something they can rectify in under an hour. If you want to test before you're able to get someone out to look at it, just swap your 4-way and 2-way splitters, reboot the tuning adapter, and see if it connects so you can tune all of your channels.

    Your House ----->----- 2-Way Splitter
    0dBmv (Loss of 4dBmv) -4dBmv
     
  15. kad7777

    kad7777 Member

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    Mar 20, 2008
    This may be a stupid question so apologies:
    If I disconnected two cables from the 4-way splitter leaving just two Tivos connected, will that have the same signal effect on my main Tivo as if I switched out the 4-way splitter for the 2-way?

    Also would something like this be better than Spectrum's 4-way?
    https://www.amazon.com/Satellite-Am...87139485&sprefix=drop+cable+am,aps,200&sr=8-5
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2020
  16. ma91cs4d

    ma91cs4d New Member

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    No - the splitter divides the signal to the number of output ports regardless of how many are actually connected. In order to see the increase in signal you would need to physically move the 2-way to where the 4-way is now. From the 2-way splitter, connect one leg to the line going to your tuning adapter and TiVo, and the other leg to the line going to your office with the TiVo mini and cable modem. At the TV where your main TiVo and tuning adapter are, connect in pass-through mode with your input going to the tuning adapter first, and from the output port of the tuning adapter to the input on the TiVo.
     
  17. kad7777

    kad7777 Member

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    Mar 20, 2008
    Switched the 4-way with a 2-way momentarily. Signal definitely got better. Rebooted tuning adapter. No change in what channels I received.
     
  18. dlfl

    dlfl Cranky old novice

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    After “rebooting” your TA (I hope you mean “power-cycling” because just hitting the button on the front of the TA doesn’t cut it), have you checked in the TiVo Diagnostics page, near the bottom, where it should say “Channel List Received: Yes” ? You may need to cycle the USB connector or even restart the TiVo to achieve this. You won’t get SDV channels if this says “no”.
     
  19. kad7777

    kad7777 Member

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    Mar 20, 2008
    I power cycled the TA and in the diagnostic page it says "yes"
     
  20. kad7777

    kad7777 Member

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    Last edited: Apr 17, 2020

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