Swisscom has launched a new iteration of its IPTV service, which it has branded TV 2.0. The next generation TV experience employs a set-top box with Android-based Teatro-3.5 software platform from Switzerland’s i-Wedia, and supports network DVR. The box uses Verimatrix VCAS and Microsoft PlayReady for content protection. The STB is powered by Marvell’s ARMADA 1500 Plus system-on-a-chip (SoC), and is 802.11ac Wi-Fi-enabled.
Swisscom’s move to Android and network DVR is a significant departure from the previous version of its IPTV service, which was based on Microsoft’s Mediaroom platform and traditional DVR STBs that contained an integrated hard disk drive (HDD). Previously, the operator had implemented nDVR as a means to extend the reach of content recorded on its DVR STBs to secondary screens in the household including PCs, tablets and mobile devices. By migrating its STB software from Mediaroom to Android Swisscom’s investment in nDVR technology has become fully realized, and more importantly it represents the replacement of its legacy TV platform with its multiscreen platform for the main TV screen in the home. This is potentially a worrying trend for STB software platforms that don’t support multiscreen delivery, such as Mediaroom.
Over the past three years, there has been considerable speculation about Android as a platform for TV, specifically as an operating system on STBs. However, many operators chose to move away or not to implement Android due to security concerns and the level of customization required to turn the open-source protocol into a STB operating platform. In fact, many operators that have chosen to integrate Android have chosen to “sandbox” the operating system as a way to integrate applications into the TV experience without making it the primary operating system, opting instead for competing middleware. However, Android is an intriguing approach for telcos, as it is a familiar platform, with many hosting in-house development teams for application integration on Android smartphones. This makes customizable white-label Android STB software solutions such as i-Wedia’s appealing, as it eliminates the necessity to develop to core STB software stack, but offers the possibility for in-house customization. Where operators have already developed solutions for delivering video to Android smartphones, a third-party-developed Android STB OS could simplify porting the mobile application to a STB; therefore providing an easy route for operators to migrate from legacy proprietary STB platforms to Android-based ones. .
Swisscom is part of a growing nDVR trend that was initially confined Eastern European and East Asian IPTV operators. A growing number of Western European operators are now offering nDVR: Swiss competitor Sunrise Communications, KPN Interactive in the Netherlands, Telefonica Movistar TV and Telecable in Spain, ZON TV in Portugal, and the UK’s Virgin Media trialing TiVo’s nDVR technology. Cablevision and Comcast are the only US operators to launch nDVR so far.
Despite being marketed as a cloud DVR, Swisscom’s TB does have a small amount of local storage for time-shift functionality, giving it a level of hybridity. This is very important, as it recognizes the need for some local control of time-shift content, represented by something as simple as consumer desire to pause live TV for a moment to go about their business around the house. Comcast’s X1 nDVR is similarly implemented.
The main impediments to more widespread nDVR involve legislation and content owner caution. The combination of Android and nDVR could be a bellwether on future nDVR STB deployments if Swisscom’s effort is broadly adopted and successful. However, copyright concerns are not the only impediment to widespread adoption of network DVR. Currently, only operators that have robust IP infrastructure have deployed nDVR . The future prospects for nDVR remain in large part held hostage to the success of the current deployments, as operators cautious of the nDVR will base their future deployment configuration upon the success of current deployments.
The new Swisscom set-top box ships with 802.11ac WiFi on board, indicating that the operator intends to migrate its broadband subscribers to consumer premises equipment using this standard. This reflects an ongoing trend of mature market Internet Service Providers migrating to 802.11ac deployed hardware over the 2014 calendar year. The increased bandwidth offered with a dual-band 802.11ac piece of equipment offers greater throughput to transport high quality video content across multiple screens in the house, to include other televisions, PCs, and mobile devices. This represents the further convergence of the broadband CPE with that of the STB and pay TV subscription in order to provide a high quality of service for video distribution throughout the home.