Posted April 22 2007 - 03:40 AM
| They can't. The network that Scientific Atlanta box's work on was built by SA. It's not compatible with Motorola hardware. |
It isn't a matter of a "network", per se
The crown jewels of a cable system are the conditional access (CA) system and the out-of-band (OOB) channel. And the crown jewelers are Motorola and Scientific-Atlanta. The messages carried on the OOB are proprietary, not standardized, and the conditional access entitlement messages are very, very proprietary. The headend equipment, supplied by either Motorola or Scientific-Atlanta, controls the technical details of the OOB channel and the CA messages. And up until now, Motorola and S-A have used that control to maintain marketplace control over set-top boxes, in spite of FCC regulations promoting retail sales of set-top boxes...
...Suppose you are a cable MSO with Motorola or S-A equipment installed, but you would like to add Sony set-top boxes to your inventory, and you would like to migrate away from the Motorola/S-A CA system. Until now, you would have to totally duplicate every encrypted video channel, carrying one stream using the Motorola/S-A system and a duplicate stream using the Sony system. You would need 100 percent duplication of the encrypted programming. - from "Attacking the crown jewels" By Jeffrey Krauss CedMagazine.com - February 01, 2003
So it is perfectly possible for a cable headend facility to have both SA and Motorola equipment installed and send both data-streams down the same cable to all its customers. Those who have SA boxes would be able to decode and play the SA stream, those with Motorola equipment would do the same with the Motorola stream.
The problem with this is bandwidth. For premium channels and other encrypted digital content the cable company would have to send two duplicate streams for every program. That's too much to sustain on an on-going basis - but a cable company might be able to do that to a discrete part of its customer base for a week or so, thus enabling old boxes to function even while new ones are being deployed.
At the time of that 2003 article Sony was working on a solution of its own (since it also makes STBs.)
The Sony theory is elegant. For digital premium channels carried as compressed MPEG packets, today, all the MPEG packets are encrypted. But Sony believes that encrypting all the packets is overkill. Only the most critical packets need to be encrypted to provide adequate security, because these critical packets contain the instructions for when and how to reconstruct the video from the rest of the packets. The critical packets are only 2 percent to 10 percent of all the MPEG packets, and in order to carry a duplicate stream, only these critical packets need to be duplicated and then encrypted.
I'm not sure if this has ever been implemented, but it does seem to offer a way for cable companies to transition from one STB to another with a relatively modest hardware investment and minimal service interruptions for users. (And Comcast does seem to want to completely assimilated all its acquired systems by standardizing channel line-ups and services, so why not reduce headaches by standardizing on hardware as well, so that its support staff only has to be ignorant about one brand of equipment?
| The rumblings I've heard however is that an SA TiVo upgrade was going to be worked on at some point also. |
The TiVO reps discussed this at CES, and of course they are trying to port the software to SA (and other brands of STBs) and market it to other cable companies. TiVO's best shot at corporate survival is to take its strength - a brilliant user interface and terrific feature set - and marry it to the cable and satellite company hardware it can't otherwise compete with. Because the TiVO clones those companies have come up with suck really, really badly and at some point the service providers are going to realize that it doesn't make any sense to reinvent the wheel (and constantly have to maintain the wheel) when they can just license the design of a much better wheel - one that won't piss off its existing customer base. (I have relatives who hate the post-TiVO DirecTV box so much that they're seriously thinking about going back to cable when they're ready to upgrade to HD.)
Subscribers to Comcast and now Cox video services will eventually be able to choose the TiVo navigational system as the primary guide for their digital cable service, thanks to a TiVo/Cox deal etched in August.
Customers who choose TiVo over Cox's existing navigational system will be able to do so without a box swap, TiVo officials said. Cox's digital set-top footprint is about 50/50 Motorola and Scientific Atlanta; SA's boxes are expected to lead the deployment. Meanwhile, over at Comcast, which is about 90 percent Motorola, work continues to get the TiVo system ready for widespread deployment, probably sometime in '07. CEDonline.com October 1, 2006
So it probably isn't a matter of working out the OOD/CA headend issue and hardware details in porting to the SA boxes. The problem is that the TiVO software doesn't really replace
the underlying cable company system like Comcast's OnDemand, it sits on top of it, providing a better interface, a bit like Windows 3.1 basically ran on top of DOS. (For those of you old enough to remember that.
) So they'd need to tweak the TiVO/SA version to run with the version of Comcast's system that is currently running on SA hardware. Since Comcast is currently 90 percent Motorola, you can see where they'd make Moto their top priority in this transition, and even why them might consider biting the bullet and scrapping SA entirely if they think that will simplify their lives in the long-run.
| Keep in mind, Motorola is going to be deploying Cable Card set top box's for customer to purchase, then you can get a cable card. Much like the TiVo Series 3 (The M-card should be out fairly soon too for PIP/Dual Tuner capabilities). If Cable Card 2.0 was out, I think I would get a TiVo Series 3. |
Cable Card or no cable card, there is no way I can afford to drop $1400 on a pair of TiVO S-3s plus
their monthly service fees and
the cost of the Cable Cards in order to basically duplicate what I have now. If I can get a TiVO interface on a Moto or SA box with a true "Season Pass" and the other basic TiVO features I'll be very happy.