Pace Powers Comcast's 'Xfinity Spectrum' Net-Enabled TV Trial

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U.K. set-top manufacturer Pace has developed a four-tuner HD digital video recorder that Comcast is using to test Xfinity Spectrum, a service that blends TV programming with Internet content including e-mail and YouTube video clips, according to documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission.

"Comcast's Xfinity Spectrum brings you the best of TV and the Internet," according to the operator's user guide for the service. "You can watch TV programs, Internet content such as social networking from Facebook and Twitter (which we call 'Social TV') and Internet-based entertainment such as YouTube videos -- all on your TV."

The Pace RNG 210N boxes are currently being tested in a few dozen homes in Comcast's 100% digital system in Augusta, Ga. The Pace DVR is capable of recording 60 hours of HD programming, or up to 300 hours of standard-definition programming, according to documents posted on the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology equipment authorization site.

Xfinity Spectrum set-top by Pace

The set-tops in the test are code-named "Parker," apparently referring to Spider-Man protagonist Peter Parker.

The Pace RNG210N HD DVR includes an Ethernet jack for home networking; component video, S-video and HDMI outputs; a CableCard slot; an IEEE 1394 "FireWire" port; and a USB 2.0 port reserved for future use. With four tuners, users can record up to three channels at once while watching a fourth.

Details of Comcast's Spectrum box were reported Monday by blog WirelessGoodness.com.

The redesigned interactive program guide lets users search for program titles, actors, sports teams and genres. The "browse" menu includes a "Your Shows" section that has a list of DVR recordings, favorites and bookmarks.

"Imagine not just watching a movie or TV show, but utilizing Xfinity Spectrum as a reference for the soundtrack, cast and crew details, channel line-ups and other information you'd usually have to search the Internet for," the user guide says.

Xfinity Spectrum guide mock-up

To use the Facebook and Twitter features, Xfinity Spectrum users must first link their accounts online. Users are limited to sharing the current program they're watching and whether or not they like it.

A subscriber's Facebook friends who are also Spectrum users can see his or her likes when they visit the "friends" section of the guide. In addition, the service lets users receive real-time, on-screen alerts when friends share videos or photos on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

Other interactive TV apps in the Spectrum service provide traffic and weather info, Pandora's Internet radio service and games.

Internally, Comcast calls the project "Xcalibur." It's being overseen by Sam Schwartz, formerly president of Comcast Interactive Capital, who is now president of the MSO's Converged Products group.

Sources said Comcast's experimental trial involves mostly employees. Currently the MSO has no plans to launch the Xcalibur service or Parker set-tops commercially.

The Spectrum user's guide notes that Comcast's monthly data usage cap is 250 Gigabytes, but adds: "Even if you use the Internet heavily, and take full advantage of Xfinity Spectrum, this limit really shouldn't impact you. 250 GB/month is a huge amount of data, much more than a typical residential customer uses on a monthly basis."

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