Set Top Box Technology Overview

Set Top Boxes (STB) traditionally allow a consumer to access video content within their home on their Television (TV).  These devices are required, as TV technology is generally more expensive...

Set Top Boxes (STB) traditionally allow a consumer to access video content within their home on their Television (TV).  These devices are required, as TV technology is generally more expensive and  moves much slower than video delivery technology, meaning the technology is not built into them.  Therefore if a consumer wants the latest video content they buy/rent a set top box and plug this into their existing TV.

Before Digital TV was invented, TV’s decoded broadcast analogue channels, initial STB’s simply converted one type of analogue TV channel signal to one the TV could understand.  Initial STBs had very little security and the ownership of a STB and the feed (cable or satellite) meant a consumer could have access to the video content.  As multi-channel TV started to expand the move to Digital TV allowed some major changes:

  • Compression of the video meant better usage of the spectrum, therefore more TV channels could be transmitted
  • Encryption and authentication allowed for better security of the video content
  • TV Guides were broadcast as digital data to allow the consumer to see what is on

Early digital STBs had simple interfaces which allowed the consumer to navigate through the multichannel TV line-up, more complex STB’s started to  integrate the Internet into the STB and allowed consumers to experience a richer offering of services.

STB’s were constantly evolving, as the battle between the satellite and cable broadcasters heated in any given region.  These battles were fought over both video content (sports rights) and functionality to increase revenue per user (RPU).  Many new features were add to the STB:

  • nVOD – Near Video on Demand, a broadcaster plays out a video many time starting every 15 mins
  • VOD (Video on Demand – the broadcaster just plays a video when a customer wants to watch it)
  • Internet Access on TV – walled gardens and premium content around video (didn’t take off initially)
  • PVR/DVR – secure video recording on internal hard disks
  • High Definition TV – more pixels better quality TV
  • 3D TV
  • Personalise-able ‘Apps’ similar to smart-phones

The STB has now become a highly complex software based system requiring years of development effort for each new feature.  The consumer is quite happy for his mobile smart phone to crash every now and then, or his PC to slow down and need fixing, but historically they expect their TV  to work all the time or they will call the broadcaster and complain.

However the next technology development is to the Connected TV, this moves into the arena of the PC, smart phone and games console.  Content will be obtainable from many sources and not just the traditional broadcaster Also the software running on these devices will be obtained from many developers.  New TV’s will have this technology built into them however most people will not get a new TV, therefore this will be a driver for the STB to once again allow your old TV to be used with the new technology.

The connected TV technology will have two major effects on the STB:

  • The complexity of the system will be increased, thus testing for bugs becomes more difficult
  • Security concerns for PayTV content suppliers, will this increase piracy?

With extensive experience from the initial deployments of STBs to the development of the latest internet connected STBs ai:consortia consultants can support your organisation with all aspects involving STB.  We possess a full understanding of the building blocks of the echo system from the back office to the STB from a Satellite, Cable and IPTV perspective.

Through ai:consortia’s experience based insights into PayTV,  from hardware, software and system architecture to product selection, integration, testing and deployment, you can gain a speedy initiation to your project and a greater probability of success.

If your organisation needs STB consultancy then ai:consortia can help, contact us for more information.



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