October 17, 2011
Gateways Open the Door to More Web TV
For those Canadian subscribers who thought they just couldn’t cram in any more programming, operator Shaw is offering a new gateway it's touting as the "the center of a connected home" throughout its footprint.
The Shaw Gateway Experience uses a multi-room HD personal video recorder (PVR) to access recorded content and Shaw's VOD library on as many as six TVs. Shaw initially announced it was rolling out the ARRIS hybrid IP/QAM gateway earlier this year in Calgary. (For more, see Shaw Offers ARRIS' Multi-Room PVR Service).
The Shaw Gateway Experience is available to Shaw Cable customers in areas where the Home Phone product is available. Subscribers can purchase the gateway and one portal for $348, and payment plans are available. Additional portals for additional TVs cost $142 each; they also can be purchased through a payment plan.
The gateway's program guide gives customers access to such new features as content filters, enhanced search and on-screen games – all while watching TV in another window. Shaw's President Peter Bissonette said the gateway and other portals are connected via Multimedia Over Coax Alliance (MoCA) technology.
The new offering also is future-proof, Shaw says, taking advantage of MPEG-4, 1080p and 3D technology, with plans on the roadmap to:
IP vs. MPEG-2
- Interact through the TV with access to social media and Internet content;
- Schedule TV recordings remotely either through a wireless device or online; and
- Connect wirelessly with a computer to share pictures and other content on the TV.
According to Larry Robinson, vice president and general manager/Home Devices at Motorola Mobility, "Today, an operator's network is very much a broadcast network over QAM. Every set-top is connected to that operator's network, and those are the devices that receive the video content and go through security elements to enable viewing. The devices capable of enabling a rich entertainment experience - tablets, smartphones - these are IP devices. The way to reach them is traditional video over QAM to the home. The gateway does the translation for you."
Although Shaw's gateway is capable of IP delivery, Kip Compton, vice president/Strategy and Product Management in Cisco's Service Provider Video Group, recently said, "We expect MPEG-2 to remain relevant for at least another decade. A lot of customers are planning to shift to IP, but turning off MPEG-2? It will be years."
But do subscribers want the cable guy to come to their houses and connect a new gateway product? Shaw's gateway requires professional installation, which the operator is providing for free. Motorola Mobility’s Robinson said consumers are driving the demand for more ways to watch their video, and this demand, in turn, prompts operators to deploy gateways.
While vendors are touting gateways, they're pursuing other multi-screen technologies as well. Motorola has created a new product - Televation - to help consumers watch their video on different devices. "It's not a gateway in the way I've been describing thus far," Robinson said. "It connects to an operator's video network, tunes to a particular channel or program, transcodes and converts into a format that's consumable by (IP devices), and distributes over Wi-Fi."
Televation uses a CableCard to decrypt content similar to a traditional set-top box, and it uses Motorola's SecureMedia IPRM-HN technology to preserve the digital rights associated with the program, while it's streaming within the home. (For more, see Gateways: The Next Frontier for DOCSIS 3.0 and Down The Multi-Screen Rabbit Hole).