Charter, Comcast Make Set-Top Moves

Death to the set-top! Long live the set-top!

While the functions of set-top boxes continue to get virtualized within tablets, smart TVs, PC browsers, smartphones and other connected devices, reports of the device’s death may be greatly exaggerated.

Two of the largest U.S. cable operators are pushing ahead with plans to order more. Charter Communications has already begun to expand the vendor base for its new “Worldbox,” and at least one Comcast supplier is pushing ahead with a next-generation, IP-only set-top client device.


Charter confirmed its selection of Humax as the second source for the Worldbox, the MSO’s new hybrid quadrature amplitude modulation/Internet-protocol device lineup that will run the Stamford, Conn.-based MSO’s downloadable conditional access system (DCAS) and its new, cloud-based user interface.

Charter wouldn’t say how much Worldbox business is to go Humax’s way, but the South Korean vendor is officially the MSO’s second source for this new class of device. At last month’s International CES, it said Cisco Systems was the first supplier of the Worldbox, which will initially comprise HD DVR and non-DVR models.

At the time, Cisco was characterized as a “key” supplier of Worldboxes through 2015, on tap for a “substantial share” of the devices heading Charter’s way.

Charter hasn’t announced any other Worldbox suppliers. However, Arris hopes to be in the mix, as it will have “equal opportunity to bid on the Worldbox [business], as any other competitor,” Bob Stanzione, Arris’s chairman and CEO, said at an investor conference earlier this month.

The Charter win gives Humax’s U.S. cable ambitions a boost. Last April, Time Warner Cable announced that it had picked Humax to build the MSO’s first device based on the Reference Design Kit, a pre-integrated software stack for video and broadband devices that is being managed by Comcast, TWC, and Liberty Global. It’s not known how that deal will carry forward if and when Comcast and TWC complete their proposed merger.


The Xi4, a next-generation IP set-top for Comcast’s X1 platform, appears to have taken a step toward deployment readiness after the Federal Communications Commission recently tested a Cisco Systems version of the device.

The FCC filings on the Xi4 don’t provide much detail as to its capabilities, but Comcast Cable senior vice president and general manager, video services Matt Strauss told Multichannel News at last year’s Cable Show in Los Angeles that the Xi4 is a smaller version of the Xi3, Comcast’s first IP-only video client product.

Comcast hasn’t made any further announcements about the Xi4, but confirmed last fall it had had begun to deploy the Xi3, initially supplied by Pace, with plans to make it “widely available across our footprint in Q1 or Q2 of [2015].”

Comcast is also working on a next-generation of the XG1, the HD-DVR/gateway that currently anchors the MSO’s X1 platform. A rendering of that product, from Cisco and branded as the XG2, appeared online late last year.