Charter Video Takes to the Cloud(s)

Jan. 14, 2015
From amongst the news and demos at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week came the unveiling of Charter ...
From amongst the news and demos at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week came the unveiling of Charter Communications' (NASDAQ:CHTR) hybrid IP/QAM set-top, dubbed Worldbox. And at Cisco's (NASDAQ:CSCO) annual reception, it was revealed that the vendor will be a key supplier for the next-gen Worldboxes and will also contribute two of its Videoscape cloud-based security software products to the MSO's video solution.

The VideoGuard Server provides downloadable conditional access system (DCAS) functionality on set-top boxes, and the VideoGuard DRM provides digital rights management functionality on a variety of client devices.

The announcement comes on the heels of the passage of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Reauthorization Act of 2014 (STELAR), which, in part, committed to reforming federal CableCARD regulations. Before passage of the legislation, the so-called integration ban required that cable operators deploy set-top boxes that contain a separate security module. In other words, security could not simply be integrated into the box or provided via software or firmware.

Relief from that requirement paved the way for Charter to offer a downloadable security solution that does not depend on a CableCARD. "Worldbox opens up the box universe," said Charter President and CEO Tom Rutledge. "These devices can run on any cable system .... It takes costs out of our business .... It is more capable than anything (we've had) in the past .... It is a high capacity box ... but a less expensive box."

The open solution downloadable security has been a multi-year effort involving multiple cable vendors and has been ported to their CPE. It interoperates with in-place proprietary conditional access implementations, which means that it can be rolled out across different cable video network architectures. While initially, Cisco will provide a "substantial" share of Charter's Worldboxes, the idea is that other vendors could become future suppliers. Charter also is participating in the development of compatible boxes that would be available for retail.

Charter is deploying downloadable security to its current systems this year and will continue deployment to the systems that it could acquire as part of the proposed Time Warner Cable/Comcast merger.

Specifically, the current deployment will include both an HD only and HD-DVR Worldbox. The latter will be configurable up to 16 tuners and include a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem, 1 GB of RAM, USB and a terabyte of storage.

In other news, Charter plans to launch its cloud-based user interface, Spectrum Guide - based on technology from ActiveVideo - on not only its Worldboxes, but also on its legacy devices. "While the old boxes don't have a DOCSIS modem in (them, they) can look at streamed MPEG signals, which is what VOD is, and ActiveVideo's technology changes the guide from an IP format to streamed MPEG and renders it as though it were an IP guide," Rutledge said.