Parks Associates Blog

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Role of the Set-Top Box

The set-top box (STB) is the primary point of entry into the digital home for television services, including cable TV, DTH, and IPTV. This device has evolved beyond its historical role as a simple black box sitting on top of a large TV set into a smaller form-factor device supporting a variety of functions, notably interactive television applications. Service providers worldwide are aggressively upgrading their equipment to support the migration away from analog television and toward digital television (DTV), with the hopes of improving consumer satisfaction and creating service differentiators.

In markets with a high penetration of DTV subscriptions, support for advanced features such as VoD, DVR/PVR, and other interactive applications are driving the deployment of digital STBs. Another interesting development has been a resurgence in the concept of a residential gateway (RG), which is a complex device capable of delivering multiple services to the home, including video, data, voice, and wireless. This development seems to set up competing hardware paradigms, with two different form factors expanding their roles, with functional overlap, within the home. Right now, there is no clear industry consensus about whether, and to what extent, STB functions will shift to the residential gateway or vice versa.

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