WASHINGTON — As expected, the “cloud,” Gigabit services and the Reference Design Kit (“RDK”) led the tech headlines at this year’s Cable Show. Given that you’ve likely read plenty about them by now, this week’s translation will drop in on the rest of the tech scene.
We’ll start with some big news that tucked in to the last day of this year’s show: A deal between Time Warner Cable and Samsung for HDTVs that come with the TWC TV application built-in. No box.
Strategically, it means that owners of the Samsung sets who live in Time Warner Cable territory will see the MSO’s services on “both inputs” — one and two. That means whether the viewer selects “input one,” where “regular cable” plugs in, or “input two,” where the TV connects to Internet protocol over Ethernet or Wi-Fi, they’ll see TWC services.
Note: Several news reports said that TV buyers will be able to “download” the TWC TV app, though few of the connected TVs in the marketplace now offer a “download” feature. None of the connected Samsung devices (TV, Blu-ray DVD) in my little over-the-top video lab do. It’s more likely the TWC TV app will show up in a negotiated section of screen within Samsung’s “walled garden” of apps.
As with TWC TV on Roku 3 streamers, the app can’t be accessed on the Samsung TVs unless it is “behind” a Time Warner Cable-provisioned cable modem or gateway. That way, the viewer’s login can be checked against the MAC (media access control) address of the modem. Having a login isn’t enough. (Found that out.)
Another palpable tech trend at this year’s show: Wi-Fi. Right here, at the midpoint of 2013, cable-delivered Wi-Fi is spraying bits from about more than 150,000 hotspots. That makes cable the largest Wi-Fi provider in the U.S.
CABLE WI-FI EXPLOSION
But in all likelihood, if Comcast has its way, cable’s Wi-Fi footprint will expand by an order of magnitude.
At the show, the biggest U.S. cable operator announced plans for “neighborhood hotspots,” which works by turning existing, Wi-Fiequipped cable modems into hot spots via a firmware upgrade.
At an Imagine Park session here last Wednesday (April 12), Comcast chief technology officer Tony Werner said that means millions, and ultimately tens of millions, of devices.
Here’s how it works: Say you have broadband service through a Comcast cable modem or wireless gateway. That device came to you with two SSIDs — service set identifiers. That’s what populates the list of available Wi-Fi hot spots when you’re looking for signal.
One of them, of course, is whatever yours is called. The other — partitioned such that it can’t see or mess with your traffic on the other — will presumably say “xfinitywifi.” (Sadly, Comcast’s Wi-Fi momentum hasn’t reached Denver yet.)
The technique of turning home equipment into hot spots isn’t unique to Comcast — overseas operators that can’t get workable access to aerial plant to place Wi-Fi radios also like it. Belgium’s Telenet is one example, as is Liberty Global.
So for those reasons, it just seems like 150,000- plus cable-delivered Wi-Fi hot spots will seem real puny real soon.
READING THE PAPERS
Lastly: I purchased this year’s batch of tech papers (I now have 25 sets, go figure), and spent a few moments looking for the masterpieces of tech-talk. A later column will pluck out the informational dandies, but just in terms of gibberish, this year’s hands-down winner goes to Patricio Latini and Ayham Al-Banna, of Arris. Their paper: “A Simple Approach for Deriving the Symbol Error Rate of Non-Rectangular 22k+1 M-ary AMPM Modulation.”