Does the dropping of basic encryption by UPC in Switzerland mean the end is nigh for the old fashioned set-top box? Asks Julian Clover.
How surprised should we be that Switzerland’s UPC Cablecom is dropping basic encryption? The answer is clearly “not very”. Until the arrival of digital services over a decade ago many cable operators on the European continent managed without a set-top box altogether.
The only time a set-top was deployed came when the subscriber wanted to sign up to one of the premium channels or the troublesome extended basic packages.
Not that long ago Cablecom was one of the leading lights of CI Plus, the module that slips into the side of many flat screen television sets and brings with it encryption and an interface through which the customer can access video on demand services.
But for those customers that are satisfied without – and of course have a cable tuner inside their set – then at the risk of missing out on some VOD revenue it is a relatively straightforward decision for the operator.
This does of course add fuel to the growing debate over whether or not we will have set-top boxes at all in the medium term.
As things stand the set-top box is getting grander and grander. Across the Liberty Global network we have the Horizon box that Cablecom customers will enjoy early next year. Then there is TiVo and the addition of streamed content to what was once just Sky+.
So on one side we have set-tops becoming less relevant and on the other there is a need more than ever. At least until the television manufacturers start to add in hard disk drives to their displays.
But even if such a scenario becomes commonplace the operator will continue to want to have the technology within their own destiny. After all that is one of the key differentiators between free and pay-TV.