Cable Show Technology Roundup
WASHINGTON, D.C.—As expected, “cloud,” Gigabit services and the Reference Design Kit (“RDK”) led the tech headlines at this year’s Cable Show. Given that you’ve likely read plenty about them by now, this week’s translation will drop in on the rest of the tech scene.
Starting with some big news that tucked in to the last day of this year’s show: A deal between Time Warner Cable and Samsung for HDTVs that come with the TWC TV application built-in. No box.
Strategically, it means that owners of the Samsung sets, who live in Time Warner Cable territory, will see the MSO’s services on “both inputs” – one and two. Meaning, whether the viewer is looking at “input one,” where “regular cable” plugs in (read: HDMI), or at “input two,” where the TV connects to IP over Ethernet or Wi-Fi, they’re seeing TWC services.
Note: Several news reports said that people who buy the TV will be able to “download” the TWC TV app. Yet, few of the connected TVs in the marketplace yet offer a “download” feature. None of the connected Samsung devices (TV, blu-ray DVD) in my little OTT video lab do. It’s more likely that the TWC TV app will show up in a negotiated section of screen within Samsung’s “walled garden” of apps.
Just as you can “see” the TWC TV on screens attached to Roku 3 streamers, the app can’t be accessed unless it is “behind” a Time Warner Cable-provisioned cable modem or gateway. That way, the viewer’s login can be checked against the MAC (media access control) address of the modem. Having a login isn’t enough. (Found THAT out.)
Another palpable tech trend at this year’s show: Wi-Fi. Right here, at the mid-point of 2013, cable-delivered Wi-Fi is spraying bits from about 200,000 outdoor hotspots. That makes cable the largest Wi-Fi provider in the U.S.
But in all likelihood, cable’s Wi-Fi footprint will expand by an order of magnitude, if Comcast has its way. At the Show, it announced plans for “neighborhood hotspots,” which works by turning existing, Wi-Fi-equipped cable modems into hot spots.
At an Imagine Park session here last Wednesday, Comcast CTO Tony Werner said that means millions and ultimately tens of millions of devices, after a firmware upgrade.
Here’s how it works: Say you have broadband service through a Comcast cable modem or wireless gateway. That device came to you with two SSIDs — service set identifiers. That’s what populates the list of names of available WiFi hot spots, when you’re looking for signal.
One of them, of course, is whatever yours is called. The other – partitioned such that it can’t see or mess with your traffic on the other — will presumably say “xfinity Wi-Fi.” (Sadly, Comcast’s WiFi momentum hasn’t reached Denver yet.)
The technique of turning home equipment into hot spots isn’t unique to Comcast – overseas operators who can’t get workable access to aerial plant, to place WiFi radios, like it too. Telenet, in Belgium, is one example, as is Liberty Global.
So for those reasons, it just seems like 200,000 cable-delivered WiFi hot spots is going to seem real puny real soon.
Lastly: I purchased this year’s batch of tech papers (I now have 25 sets, go figure), and spent a few moments looking for the masterpieces of tech-talk. A later column will pluck out the informational dandies, but just in terms of gibberish, this year’s hands-down winner goes to Patricio Latini and Ayham Al-Banna, of Arris. Their paper: “A Simple Approach for Deriving the Symbol Error Rate of Non-Rectangular 22k+1 M-ary AMPM Modulation.”
This column originally appeared in the Platforms section of Multichannel News.