Some interesting news about Switched Digital Video

Remember back when Tom Rogers, TiVo’s CEO, made some interesting comments before Congress about SDV? No? Well, you can watch the video, but this quote sums it up:

[Rep. Anna] Eshoo said SDV, by not working with CableCards, would frustrate the FCC’s effort.“I am concerned that despite the implementation of this mandate, many cable operators will either hobble or render competitive set-top boxes unusable by deploying new channel switching technology that won’t work with other boxes,” she said.

Although he agreed, Rogers said that cable operators have assured him of their cooperation.

“There is good news. We have pointed out this problem to the cable industry. To their great credit, they have said, we want to work this out, we want to work this through, consumers should be able to get this kind of expectation that CableCards and new technologies like this will work and we are hopeful that it will be solved,” he said.

Rogers said he remained concerned that cable operators do not have a sufficient supply of CableCards and that they tend to require consumers to schedule installation visits when CableCards can be mailed and easily installed by the consumer.

An National Cable & Telecommunications Association official confirmed that the industry wanted to resolve TiVo’s compatibility issues.

“Cable is working with Tivo and others to try to develop a technical fix so one-way devices will be able to access the inherently two-way switched digital video signals,” the NCTA official said.

A tantalizing tidbit for those concerned about SDV and their TiVo Series3, or the new TiVo HD, especially with providers like Time Warner increasing their use of SDV. But since Mr. Rogers’s comments in May, TiVo seems to have been silent about this issue. While working on my TiVo HD review I asked TiVo about this, specifically referencing Mr. Rogers’s comments, but TiVo had nothing further to add at this time.

However, there is something else out there and it is quite interesting. On June 5, 2007, the Vice President and General Counsel for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Neal M. Goldberg, sent a letter to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary for the Federal Communications Commission. And that letter is an interesting read indeed. To highlight something in particular:

3. Switched Digital Video. Switched Digital Video (“SDV”) is a significant bandwidth management technology employed by cable operators to offer more programming choices, more High Definition, Standard Definition, and on-demand channels; to deliver faster Internet access speeds and the innovative services those speeds enable, including digital voice service; and to deploy more interactive two-way services.6 When TiVo raised concerns that its one-way DVRs could not access two-way SDV linear channels, the cable industry responded promptly and engineers from cable and TiVo are working now to find a solution. TiVo’s President and CEO Tom Rogers recently testified that “There is good news. We have pointed out this problem to the cable industry. To their great credit, they have said, we want to work this out, we want to work this through…. We are hopeful that it will be solved.”

So there is more confirmation from the ‘other side of the fence’ that this issue is being worked on, set to the FCC roughly a month after Mr. Rogers made his comments.

There are other interesting bits:

2. Multi-Stream CableCARDs for One-Way Devices. Multi-Stream CableCARDs (“M-Cards”) enable devices to unscramble more than one programming stream so, for example, a viewer may record one descrambled program while viewing another descrambled program. CableLabs, with the assistance of consumer electronics parties, including representatives from TiVo, Motorola, Soleki Systems Corporation, Digeo Interactive, Digital Keystone, and ViXS, redesigned the test suite requirements for “one-way” retail devices (such as TiVo’s DVR) to enable such devices to use multistream CableCARDs in multistream mode, enabling viewers to watch one channel while recording another.5

It would seem this relates to the TiVo HD, as it supports M-Card. There is also some interesting mention of alternative security devices, like a standalone module, which would handle communication with cable, satellite, or telco networks (like U-Verse). It sounds like a device which is a tuner and security token, that would have a standardized interface to communicate with the consumer device. This would allow one device, like a new TiVo, to support the various networks via the network supplied unit. As opposed to CableCARD where the tuners are in the box, and only compliant networks can be accessed with the cards – i.e., no satellite on a TiVo HD.

Anyway, interesting stuff for the SDV debate.

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
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