In our country, we don’t have too many PCs. Television and mobile are the only two screens in most homes, therefore the role of a set-top box to enhance the services and the entertainment experience of the home assumes more importance. Many chip makers are trying to bring some element of innovation to the television screen by taking set-top box beyond just basic live TV. Recently, US semiconductor major Broadcom showcased technologies relevant to the cable and the satellite (DTH) pay TV segment that can bring interactivity even to the lowest-end set top boxes.
Some of the entry-level high-definition (HD) set-top boxes, popularly known as ‘hybrid’ boxes are specially designed to do more than just live TV. According to Broadcom officials, these set-top boxes are capable of reading HTML 5, the latest markup language used for structuring and presenting content on the World Wide Web. In fact, most of the things that we see on the internet is built on HTML 5 today. These set-top boxes can also
allow one to get weather widgets, stock price widget, wheat price widgets, fish prices widgets etc. It means with these set-top boxes in place, one may not need a full computer to access such applications, simply one can take the remote and click on the widget, the required information will be on the TV screen. Also, it creates compelling business cases for the developers and service providers to develop the applications and start offering services relevant for the consumer watching TV.
“We believe that even the lowest-end set top box needs some interactivity, to go beyond just basic live TV. In our lowest end set-top box, we put something in them to make them connected. We can do a Wi-Fi connection; we can do an Ethernet connection. We believe in connected set-top boxes because a set-top box is a platform, it’s not just a live TV converter. It’s not just a receiver of live TV to show it on the TV screen. To use it as a platform; and on a platform you can do much more than just watch live TV,” Rajiv Kapur, managing director, Broadcom India told FE.
As far as adoption of these smart hybrid boxes is concerned, it’s still early days for India. Most cable operators in the country are looking at basic TV digitalisation first, followed by upgrades to hybrid boxes as a second step. However, the larger operators have shown keen interest. In fact, some of them in satellite (DTH) have even gone higher than that with personal video recorder (PVR) and 4K set-top boxes. “It’s still early days for India. We have to keep in mind that India is still mostly standard-definition (SD) today. However, the larger operators are starting to show readiness for hybrid boxes now. Because they have had a longer run in the industry as digital, they are now showing a lot of appetite for hybrid, says Kapur.
Broadcom, the Gartner’s top 10 semiconductor vendors by revenue, is primarily targeting the top operators in the country. It then plans to reach out to smaller operators. Also, the market in India is very price sensitive. Therefore Broadcom is looking at providing good business case for operators and superior watching experience for general public. “We are continuously investing in new technologies which go above and beyond just a new class of set-top boxes or new features in the set-top box to enhance the services and the entertainment experience of the home,” states Kapur, adding that integration is somewhat like gold jewelery—the more material you put in, the more expensive the end product will be. Similarly, the more you integrate in a silicon into a smaller silicon, the cheaper is going to get.
According to Kapur, the company has invested in a complete “software stack” which has implemented many STB features for the Indian environment like set-top box menu in a local language like Hindi and many other features. “We could do Tamil or any other local language. And these are all just available for us to not only lower the price but also give a complete reference design to the next new inexperienced company, let’s say a new Indian OEM desiring to start a new business can go to market quickly. Because it’s all completely ready to copy and run with,” he adds.
Also, most of the apartment buildings are cluttered with multiple dish wires. Broadcom officials say they have innovated a technology for India in which a single cable can be brought down for the whole apartment, connected to the various set-top boxes in a daisy chain fashion leading to elegance and reduced capital expense for operators.