CableCards: 14M and counting
The top-10 cable operators have deployed more than 14 million set-top boxes with CableCards since the Federal Communications Commission’s integration ban went into effect in July 2007.
According to today’s report to the FCC by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, in less than two years, cable operators have deployed more than 32 times as many CableCard-enabled devices than the total number of CableCards requested by customers for use in retail devices in the past five years.
The NCTA report said that consumer electronics manufacturers have had 600 Unidirectional Digital Cable Ready Product (UDCP) models – such as digital cable-ready DTV sets – certified, verified or self-verified for use with CableCards, as well as eight tru2way devices certified for such use.
Of the five cable operators that were required to report their CableCard deployments to the FCC today, Time Warner Cable, Charter, Cablevision, Comcast and Cox have deployed more than 407,000 CableCards for use in those devices. The five-largest cable operators serve close to 80 percent of the cable subscribers in the country.
When the CableCards deployed by the next five largest incumbent cable operators – which include Bright House Networks, Mediacom Communications, Suddenlink Communications, Insight Communications and Cable One – are included, there have been more than 437,800 CableCards deployed for use in retail devices by the 10 largest incumbent cable operators that serve approximately 90 percent of the cable subscribers in the country.
The FCC’s mandate that cable operators put CableCards into digital set-top boxes was supposed to help consumer electronics devices have “common reliance” on cable operators’ networks, but cable operators have viewed the CableCards as an added expense.
NCTA general counsel Neal Goldberg, who wrote the FCC report, said recent waivers granted by the FCC to cable operators such as Cable One (story here) show that the atmosphere at the FCC may have improved for the cable industry, even though the integration ban is still in effect.
“From a regulatory point of view, we were forced to put the cards in our boxes, and now we have over 14 million cable operator boxes that have the cards in them, and the rule is still in effect,” Goldberg said. “Just reading between the lines you can see our point, which is, ‘Hey, every box doesn’t need a card in it to achieve this common reliance that the [Consumer Electronics Association] wanted.’
“I think the [FCC] has come finally come around to the view that with the one-way devices, it’s not the cable operators who aren’t making them work, or the CE industry that isn’t making them work; the market doesn’t see a need for one-way devices now that everyone is going to interactive, two-way devices.”