Blog: Is there enough memory in boxes for tru2way stacks?

Fri, 08/29/2008 - 8:15am
Mike Robuck

So with the dawn of tru2way deployments and applications nearly upon the cable industry, some MSOs are questioning whether the set-top boxes they’re buying today will have enough memory for tru2way stacks once they’re deployed.

We’ve heard a lot this year about cable operators, consumer electronics companies and CableLabs’ commitment to tru2way, but the fact of the matter is that so far just Time Warner Cable has it deployed on an estimated 1.5 million set-top boxes.

Meanwhile, cable operators large and small are preparing for tru2way by purchasing set-top boxes this year that are “tru2way compatible.” As part of a natural refresh of set-top boxes, it makes sense for cable operators to buy set-top boxes that are geared towards future deployments of tru2way, and even, to a lesser extent, MPEG-4, but some are questioning whether there is enough memory in the boxes once the tru2way rubber actually hits the road.

“I found out that ‘enough memory’ is a very subjective term,” said Sunflower Broadband general manager Patrick Knorr. “We’re trying to get tru2way boxes deployed and certainly the higher-end DVR boxes have more memory, but I think it depends on how many applications you want to run. We’ve been told by vendors that they (set-top boxes) will operate and support tru2way, but how much?”

Knorr said there were four scenarios in regards to enough memory on set-top boxes. The first is legacy boxes that won’t in any way support tru2way while the second is a set-top box that can run tru2way but does not meet the full memory specification. In the latter scenario, Knorr said “you’re limited on the number of applications you can run.”

“The third answer would be it fully supports tru2way and the memory specification, but you may still find it doesn’t do what you want it to do down the road,” Knorr said. “The fourth scenario would be, and I don’t know of anyone who is doing this, making the memory modular so you can expand memory to add on whatever you need in the future.”

Whether the current crop of tru2way compatible set-top boxes have enough memory depends, of course, on the type of tru2way stack and applications that are deployed, but to Knorr it’s still a big question.

Not so for Bresnan Communication’s Pragash Pillai, who is vice president of strategic engineering. Like Sunflower, Bresnan is already purchasing set-top boxes that support tru2way.

“Not really,” Pillai said when he was asked whether he was concerned at all that the set-top boxes Bresnan is buying this year won’t have enough memory for tru2way applications. “We made the decision to purchase all our DVR and HD units with 256 DRAM and 32 Flash anticipating the migration to tru2way in the future.”

On the plus side, smaller cable operators such as Bresnan and Sunflower will benefit from the larger cable operators deploying tru2way first, and since a lot of the cable operators are deploying the same set-top boxes from well known vendors they may find out the answer in regards to the memory capabilities over the coming year.

In the meantime, cable operators such as Sunflower Broadband hope that they’re hedging their bets this year towards a winning tru2way hand once all the cards have been flipped.

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• Blog: Is there enough memory in boxes for tru2way stacks?

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• Broadband Briefs for 8/29/08


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