Archives For Industry

Verizon-FiOS-TV-IMG-1-dot-9-guide-software-update-screenshot

As a soon-to-be FiOS TV subscriber, I was disappointed to hear in May that Verizon was putting the brakes on the rollout of its latest guide software update. But today I hear that IMG 1.9 is back on track. I noted a comment in the DSLReports forums yesterday suggesting the rollout would resume and decided to do a little of my own digging. Sure enough, a very reliable source tells me Verizon will start the guide updates again next week, and the new software should be deployed nationally within a few months. As a reminder, here are some of the new features coming with IMG 1.9. Full release notes available here.

Features:

  • 16×9 guide
  • In-home streaming to and from HD DVRs
  • Re-engineered search function
  • More guide data
  • Support for Descriptive Video Service, native pass through, 1080p, and MP3 and MPEG-4 decoding on select devices

Quite frankly, I’m surprised ReplayTV services have carried on since DirecTV acquired the intellectual property from D&M Holdings back in 2007. But the curtain call is nearly upon us, as onscreen messaging and the updated website indicate:

The ReplayTV Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) Service will be permanently discontinued on July 31, 2011. After this date, owners of ReplayTV DVR units will still be able to manually record analog TV programs, but will not have the benefit of access to the interactive program guide. Effective immediately, monthly billing for the ReplayTV service to remaining customers has been suspended. The industry conversion to HDTV is complete and ReplayTV DVRs are unable to take advantage of the wealth of HDTV programming. Please contact your service provider for current offerings.

Of course, ReplayTV and TiVo were the DVR pioneers… that disrupted the television industry. (Although, ReplayTV’s founder now portrays the DVR as transitional – perhaps to be expected given his current perch atop Roku.) ReplayTV had a rocky time of it early on as the company flirted with bankruptcy and changed hands a few times, their pricing structure also seemed to regularly vacillate between subscription-free and subscription services as they tried to find a critical mass of customers, and perhaps, most dramatically, the entertainment industry took Replay’s commercial skip functionality into court. Continue Reading…

Word surfaced this week over on DSLReports that some Comcast subscribers are starting to see evidence of upstream channel bonding trials. Just like in the downstream, upstream bonding promises faster Internet speeds, this time for users who are uploading content online rather than downloading. (Think photo/video sharing and data back-ups.) After doing some investigating on my own, I dug out a few more details on the latest deployments. Here’s what I learned on the Comcast grapevine.

Comcast is aiming to bond four channels for better upstream speeds, but trials at the moment range from two, to three, to four channels bonded depending on network conditions. In theory, each extra channel increases throughput proportionally, so two bonded channels give roughly twice the throughput of one, three give roughly three times the throughput, etc., etc. According to what I’ve heard, Comcast is trying to deploy upstream channel bonding in as many places as it can in an effort to stay competitive over the next twelve months. The cable operator is planning to increase its standard upstream speeds from the 2-5 Mbps range today, to a range of 10-15 Mbps in the next year. Naturally, capacity is an issue as Comcast is also spending its bandwidth wealth on things like HD and VOD content. The MSO is going to have to do a lot of bandwidth balancing going forward.

According to DSLReports, users in Comcast trial areas today aren’t seeing significant speed increases in the upstream yet, but they are seeing more consistent speeds.

On a related note, Comcast is also demoing a 1 Gbps downstream connection out in Chicago at The Cable Show this week. Not that we’ll see that kind of speed from most of our home broadband connections any time soon, but at least Comcast can keep up with Google on the marketing front. It’s a flashback to the downstream speed wars of 2009.

Much has been made of Comcast Xcalibur, the code-named IP-based service designed to feed consumers their Internet access and video content all through a single fat pipe. In fact, the term Xcalibur has been whispered in back rooms for years, with some of us afraid to speak it out loud for fear of karmic retribution. It’s only recently, however, that Comcast has started to leak some of the details around Xcalibur for public consumption. Here’s what we know today. Consider it an advance tutorial for whatever more we may learn tomorrow when Comcast CEO Brian Roberts speaks at The Cable Show. (Live stream available tomorrow morning starting at 10:00 ET)

The Box
Comcast Xcalibur Pace set-top
I first started hearing at the SCTE show last fall that Comcast was testing a Pace set-top box in the Augusta Georgia area designed to support both MPEG- and IP-based video. Since then, several sources have confirmed the information and offered further details. In addition to supporting IP video, the hardware (variously called the “Parker box” and the “Xfinity Spectrum box”) has a CableCARD slot, USB 2.0 port, IEEE 1394 connection, tru2way middleware, an Intel processor, four tuners, and between 500GB and 1TB of storage. The box is an HD DVR, which suggests use as a primary living room set-top, but its hybrid MPEG/IP nature also raises interesting possibilities related to the FCC’s AllVid initiative. Continue Reading…

This Chattanooga choo choo is more than the little engine that could. Reporting over at GigaOM, industry analyst Craig Settles has detailed in two posts some of the impact the city of Chattanooga Tennessee is seeing from its gigabit broadband network. While I’m looking forward to a consistent 15 Mbps downstream connection, the good folks of Chattanooga are thinking much bigger thoughts thanks to their significant (and apparently hard-earned) broadband wealth.

First, the city is getting its money’s worth by implementing smart-grid technologies to increase operational efficiencies and cut down on costs. According to Settles, with a gigabit of bandwidth, the city’s public utility company can reduce power outages from hours down to minutes. During a recent spate of tornadoes, the smart grid saved an estimated 730,000 minutes of power (more than 12,000 hours), and eliminated the need for 250 truck rolls. That’s money in the bank.

Second, the city is offering some serious Wi-Fi benefits to the local government with a mesh network that delivers 16 Mbps of symmetrical service. Current applications taking advantage of the Wi-Fi access include a fleet of wirelessly-controlled helicopter drones that stream video feeds from remote and/or dangerous locations, and a new imaging program that scans and uploads real-world 3D images to create static holograms. (Holodeck, anyone?)

Third, Chattanooga is wooing new business interests with broadband capacity that makes big-data computations possible. SimCenter Enterprises (above) is one example located in the city, and it uses the gigabit connection for high-end modeling and simulation exercises.  Continue Reading…

Comcast Xfinity Verizon FiOS

I am on the verge of a move to Takoma Park Maryland, and being the cable geek that I am, one of the things I cataloged closely during the house hunting process was the variety of set-tops in living rooms around the region. Not that cable services were a factor in choosing a place to live (they weren’t, I swear!), but it was still worth a note to see what broadband provider might soon be receiving a portion of my monthly paycheck.

As it turns out, both Comcast Xfinity and Verizon FiOS are available in Takoma Park. Currently I’m a Comcast customer, and there are certain advantages to sticking with my existing provider, but the prospect of switching to a fiber-to-the-home service is just too tantalizing. Here’s my personal list of top pros and cons for the two megaliths of broadband service. Keep in mind this is far from a comprehensive list of features, but it’s the stuff I care about most. Continue Reading…

In a research report released by SNL Kagan this week (hat tip to Multichannel News), new numbers show just how high retransmission fees are rising for cable, telco, and satellite TV operators. According to the Kagan report, operators paid $1.14 billion in retrans fees in 2010, with that number projected to rise to $1.46 billion in 2011, and to $3.61 billion by 2017.

No wonder industry folks are so touchy about Netflix getting content on the cheap.

Increasingly, licensing deals look to be a large part of the revenue strategy for TV networks. I haven’t seen anyone draw a line specifically between that strategy and the reduced effectiveness of television advertising, but I can only assume that the two aren’t unrelated. Sure, ad revenue is still predicted to rise through 2014, but nobody is underestimating anymore the disruptive power of the Internet and new business models for television delivery. With audience attentions fragmenting, broadcasters want a more predictable and reliable stream of revenue.

Meanwhile, as retrans fees rise, and the fights among content distributors get nastier, the government is readying itself to weigh in on the matter. The FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on retransmission consent earlier this year, and has begun to collect comments from industry players. Cablevision has filed comments already, proposing that the FCC: forbid must-carry rules around secondary broadcast channels, require transparency from broadcasters on retrans fees, and forbid practices that allow broadcasters to set different prices for service providers based on “size or other factors.”

Transparency in retransmission deals? Yeah, good luck with that.