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Comcast Says X1 Box Distribution Limitations Are Temporary, Isolated

Comcast said it is working to beef up its supply for boxes that run its IP-capable X1 platform amid recent complaints from existing subscribers in some markets that the operator is holding back orders of the new devices temporarily so it can stay ahead of demand coming from new triple-play customers that are being put on the new platform.

Comcast said it has enough X1 boxes for new customers, but added that it has had to evaluate and tweak the management of that supply in markets where it is seeing high demand.

"X1 has been an incredibly popular product and there's a very high demand for our X1 DVR boxes. While we continue to install thousands of X1 boxes a day, we also are working to bolster our X1 DVR supply in this temporary situation,” Comcast said, in a statement to Multichannel News.

In recent days, existing Comcast customers, including some that take two Comcast services, have posted on message boards claiming that X1 service orders have been backordered recently so the company can keep up with demand for X1 boxes heading out to new customers who have signed up for the MSO’s bundle of video, voice and Internet services. The Consumerist, meanwhile, reports having an internal document that outlines a temporary X1 distribution policy shift for existing customers in the MSO’s Freedom Region, which includes greater Philadelphia, New Jersey and northern Delaware.

Customers on the boards write that Comcast has not given them an estimation on when it would be ready to resume orders for existing subscribers that want X1, a next-gen video service that features a cloud-based guide and a set of integrated applications. Comcast is expected to launch an upgraded, more personalized version, dubbed  “X2,” later this fall.

From the start, Comcast has been using X1 as a customer acquisition tool, targeting it primarily to new triple play customers, but the company insisted that it will continue to make X1 available to existing customers. It also acknowledged that supplies of the boxes, particularly HD-DVRs that run the X1, are lower in some markets than others, requiring the operator to adjust its deployment policy temporarily in some cases as it looks to increase its inventory.

Comcast has not said how many customers are on X1. However, the platform has been rolled out to about 85% of its footprint, and is expected to be deployed in all markets by the end of 2013. Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communcapia conference in New York late last month, Comcast vice chairman and chief financial officer Michael Angelakis said the operator is “connecting about 10,000 X1s every single day right now, and that number will ramp over time.”

Pace has been Comcast’s initial supplier for the X1 HD-DVR. Arris, one of the other vendors that will factor into X1, announced in an earnings call in August that it was preparing to launch the XG1, a QAM/IP hybrid HD-DVR gateway. Comcast has not said when it will add other X1 box suppliers to the deployment mix.