Following the news that Motorola Inc. was recalling some 800,000 DCT-2000 digital set-top boxes because of an electrical fault, the top U.S. cable operators were busy putting their public-relations wheels in motion to round up the potentially flawed boxes.
According to Motorola estimates, the problem exists in only 2 or 3 percent of the boxes manufactured between late February and May. But MSOs including Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc., Charter Communications Inc. and Insight Communications Co. are not take any chances, each saying they will round up the entire batch deployed to customers.
Although this will mean thousands of extra truck rolls, the affected operators for the most part insist it will not disrupt their digital-cable installations, nor will it dry up DCT-2000 inventories.
The June 7 recall, blamed on a faulty power-cord component, originally was thought to involve around 1 million boxes in the United States. Motorola later lowered that estimate to 800,000.
Motorola has identified the affected units by serial numbers and shipping dates, and has passed that information on to the cable operators. It is also working with the Consumer Products Safety Commission on a full recall plan. Cost for the recall has not been determined.
AT&T Broadband initially estimated it had 80,000 to 100,000 suspect boxes, but now says that number will go up. Many of those boxes are still in the company's warehouses. The MSO plans to notify customers and schedule service calls to check and replace those boxes that have already been deployed.
"It is too early to assess the potential financial impacts or possible short-term provisioning delays resulting from this situation, as resources are fully focused on ensuring customer safety and implementing measures to test and replace the potentially impacted equipment," AT&T Broadband chief operating officer Ron Cooper said in a statement.
Cox received about 90,000 boxes, but it too has a vast majority of them still stored in its warehouses. It estimates 12,000 boxes were deployed in its 28 systems, with only two markets having more than 1,000 suspect units, according to spokeswoman Laura Oberhelman.
Cox has already notified customers via phone that their boxes will be replaced, and it has posted further information on its Web site. Local systems also have sent out press releases to spread the word.
Insight is still working out a plan to deal with the 7,000 potentially faulty boxes deployed out of the 20,000 it received.
"We are right now in the process of just finalizing swapping boxes between systems to accommodate the need," assistant vice president of communications Kim Messina said. "We've determined it has not affected all of our systems, so we know some systems are untouched completely."
Insight will collect boxes in Louisville, Ky.; Columbus, Ohio; Anderson, Lafayette, Bloomington and Kokomo, Ind.; Springfield, Champaign-Urbana, Peoria and Dixon, Ill.
Comcast, too, is opting to replace the 35,000 suspect boxes it has deployed to 30,000 subscribers, and has isolated the remaining 65,000 still in its warehouses.
'NO MAJOR IMPACT'
Comcast spokeswoman Jenni Moyer said that the MSO would return the defective units to Motorola and put non-defective units back in its inventory. As with the other MSOs, Comcast set up a consumer hotline, but call volume has been pretty low, Moyer said.
While the recall will mean rolling a lot of trucks, Comcast is not expecting it to delay new installations or impact other service calls.
"I don't think that we are expecting a major impact at all," Moyer said. The MSO is working on a plan to swap the boxes, and "we have sufficient inventory to cover this as well as new installs," she said.
Charter, meanwhile, has 70,000 suspect DCT-2000s, with 40 percent in subscriber homes. That company has already started to notify customers and retrieve boxes, according to David Andersen, senior vice president of communications.
The St. Louis-based MSO also doesn't expect the recall to have a significant impact on its operations, nor will it slow new customer installations. Charter is working with Motorola to provide replacement boxes and keep up the inventory for new installations, Andersen said.