Julian Clover reports from Istanbul where manufacturer AirTies is launching itself onto the European stage.
There are probably two types of set-top box manufacturers, those who develop new products for the market, and those who don’t. Curiously the latter category can sit at either end of the price scale and can either be the pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap brigade that fill supermarket shelves or those who exclusively concentrate their efforts on the shopping list given them by the pay-TV providers.
But not all pay-TV platforms are created equal and the smaller operators that don’t necessarily have the market power still need the technologies to keep themselves on a par with those that do. It is a niche that has clearly been identified by ADB, Netgem, and the Turkish manufacturer AirTies, which this week held open house in Istanbul.
CEO Bülent Çelebi is aware of the limitations of the marketplace: “This will shift next year, but right now our business is almost 50/50 retail versus operator.” Çelebi says he sees a significant opportunity in the free-to-air market even as telcos enter full deployment. He accepts that FTA might end up requiring separate integrations for each of the markets it deploys in. “When we first started out we realised that EMEA would require customisation on a per market basis.”
Çelebi makes the point that the individual intricacies of each market make it more difficult for the likes of Apple to offer a homogenised service.
With a product range that also includes DSL routers and a whole range of wireless connectivity products it should come as no surprise that over-the-top is also a part of the AirTies mix. Looking forward one wonders if the standard DTT box in every market will involve some sort of hybrid connectivity.
For now platforms, aware of the threat of Google and Apple TV (if only in the matter of how many column inches they take up), are using the Ethernet ports that have previously lain unused. So long has this been the case that no one actually seems to have thought of actually connecting them to the internet.
AirTies has produced a range of wireless media connectors that connect any DLNA-enabled device to the internet, solving the problem where the device is at one end of the room and the internet port at the other. MicroP has been appointed as UK distributor and it is likely the product will be introduced in other European markets.
Çelebi says AirTies’ strength lies in its ability to handle both the gateway and the traditional set-top box. This is done through software that is independent of a single chipset. “Our focus is very much innovative operators who want to differentiate. If you want a box to run Microsoft Mediaroom and all you’re doing is putting a chip on a board then we’re the wrong guy”.