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Cable Technology Feature Article

August 02, 2012

Most Set-Top Boxes Stay Hardwired Through 2017, Say Reports

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

ABI Research (News - Alert) released a report recently that says that, despite the huge numbers of people who have Wi-Fi networks in their homes, most set-top boxes are going to stay hardwired through 2017. There are gains, however, and many television providers are starting to look much more seriously at the growing impact of Wi-Fi in their own operations.

Right now, essentially, most companies are using MoCA technology as their primary technology in terms of content provision, which is at its root a wired technology. The increasingly large numbers of multiroom DVR setups in consumers' homes is making wired technology a good idea overall. But many pay TV providers are starting to look to 802.11n MIMO solutions as well as those offered by 802.11ac to give an edge of wireless to home users. However, since most providers have either already chosen wired solutions--or are considering them--the adoption of wireless will take time.

However, one key point may drive cable providers away from their wired set-top box solutions, and that's the growing use of mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets are generally impossible to hook to a wired connection--there are exceptions but they often require cumbersome and unpleasant adapters--and that's going to remove a whole class of devices from consideration. That's not something anyone should be eager to do, especially when the class of devices in question is itself growing in popularity among users. Thus, according to ABI's senior analyst Michael Inouye, more and more cable providers may make moves toward standards like Miracast or Wi-Fi Direct, giving more devices access to the signal and promoting the TV Everywhere concept.

Of course, the specter of the cable cutting movement may well play a factor in this too; if cable providers don't make the effort to provide those services their customers want, it's entirely possible that more of those customers will start looking into alternatives like Hulu (News - Alert), Netflix, and the rest. But if cable providers can keep up their set-top box offerings with the switches in devices, they may well find themselves a much more viable alternative than they were previously.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman

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