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The Gateway to the Future

- June 10, 2015 - 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.41.41 PMBy Joe Chow, vice president, Connected Devices Business Unit, Cisco

Every couple of years, dating way, way, way back, someone boldly questions the future of customer premise equipment (CPE), and in particular, the set-top box. (To test this logic, do a search on “the death of the set-top box.”)

This week is all about shaking off old perceptions, and building anew. So I’ll say it – set-tops are not what they used to be. They will continue to transform dramatically. The Connected Home is evolving to gateways. Allow me to explain. Think of a home with three HDTVs. Servicing all three used to mean using three, full-featured set-tops. Modern set-tops (themselves morphing toward gateways) enable a service provider to put in one main set-top, which feeds video over IP to client boxes, which are much smaller and less expensive. Instead of three full-featured set-tops, one, connected to as many smaller, more cost-effective clients as there are big screens to feed.

Now. Let’s talk gateway. Granted, the term “gateway” straddles multiple industries, and is therefore malleable, in terms of definition. To be clear, I’m talking about the gateway as a standalone device that does its work in the home or business. Its work is to serve partly as a network node and connectivity hub, for wired and wireless connections, and partly to secure and manage copyrighted material as it transits from originator to distributor to screen.

What’s really going on in the CPE world — gateways or set-tops — is probably best phrased as a series of questions, starting with this one: Do service providers want to be the one-stop shop for on-net and off-net content, to make their customers’ lives easier? Yes, they do.

Do they want to be the wired and wireless connectivity provider of choice, in the home and the business? Yes again. As a technical matter, is the nature of how they distribute video services shifting, from QAM to IP? Yes. Are some functions shifting from “the box” — whatever we call it — to the cloud? Yes.

Let’s look at evidence in the marketplace. Comcast is still the hard-charger in IP gateways. Kabel Deutschland (KDG) is readying its cloud-powered TV platform, which is part gateway. (Incidentally, we’re a provider to both of those efforts, and more that we’re not at liberty to discuss. The point is, the gateway momentum is real.)

Which brings us to Cisco’s G10 video gateway, which will be on display at the ANGA COM booth this week in Cologne, Germany. It’s filled with the technologies that will serve the next future-state for service providers:

— HEVC compression, so as to support 4Kp60, 10-bitUltraHD video

— 16 tuners, for simultaneous viewing, recording, and streaming to IP devices in the home

— Optional transcoding to support a wide range of connected devices

— On-board Wi-Fi, to watch recorded and live TV content anywhere in the home

— 2 Gigabytes of DRAM memory

— A 12K DMIPS, ARM-based processor, for better-performing everything

— A 2.7 Gpix/second graphics engine, for faster and better UI rendering

The G10 is the state-of-the-state, and the latest in a line of gateways we’re committed to keep building and growing — because that’s what our service provider customers want us to do.

Bottom line: Declaring the extinction of operator-provided CPE is always a catchy headline, but little more than that. Operators need something — more and more, it’s a gateway — to be the best in the video and broadband marketplace. The best at video the best at broadband connectivity and the best at servicing the coming surge of “things” from the “Internet of Everything.”

I encourage you to come by and see us in Cologne at ANGA, at booth 10.2/J13.

Tweet us @CiscoSP360 if you have any questions or comments.

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