Demonstrating the full flexibility of what the Amino Enable set-top box software offers the market, a soon-to-be-announced telco customer is using the software to upgrade two previously separate legacy STB populations, from what were different operating environments, with a unified, modern user experience with a common content offer and branding.
The Enable software virtualizes underlying hardware, providing portability of video applications across both old and new devices. For this telco deployment, the Enable stack is working in conjunction with a new common middleware that is also being deployed across the full population of set-top boxes.
Enable is the core of the VIEW software used on Amino’s own set-top boxes so, in effect, it has been field-tested for years. As the company has become increasingly software-centric, the stack has now been made available for use on third-party hardware. Amino originally engaged with the telco to provide new set-top boxes and will supply these as part of the overall solution. But crucially, it has now extended the life of the legacy, non-Amino set-top boxes.
Because Enable is being used to upgrade the UEX on legacy STBs across two previously separate operating environments, it has been integrated on multiple set-top box and SoC combinations. The telco is also using Minerva as its common middleware for the deployment.
Amino was at ANGA this week demonstrating the Enable solution, which is also deployed at PCCW in Hong Kong and Cincinnati Bell in the United States. In these deployments, Amino provided the complete middleware and software combination. By upgrading existing STBs with Enable, Cincinnati Bell saved itself the cost of 150,000 new devices.
Jamie Mackinlay, Strategic Marketing at Amino, comments: “One of the consistent themes when you talk to customers is how you get better value from their installed hardware. They want to avoid the cost of STB upgrades and also the disruption this causes to subscribers. Swapping out set-top boxes gives you massive bills and can also create churn.”
Even if a television provider introduces new set-top boxes to improve their user experience, this often means that legacy devices are ‘left behind’. Amino gives service providers the chance to ‘reach back’ to older set-top boxes with the new-and-improved user experiences that would otherwise demand an STB upgrade. Mackinlay says Enable requires only 20% of the cost of a set-top box upgrade (using an Amino STB swap-out for the comparison).
So how does this approach benefit Amino, given that the company still sells its own set-top boxes? “We are thinking about the big picture and relationships that last a long time and Enable is part of our armoury; it is part of a wider proposition to the market. And if we help solve their legacy issues, we put service providers in a strong position to move forwards, and that could also mean new devices.”
When he talks about a wider proposition, it is worth remembering that Amino provides whole-home gateways and set-top boxes with its software onboard, software that can also be used with third-party hardware (Enable), an Android OS migration solution, the MOVE Cloud TV software for multiscreen TV, a Fusion home management solution that includes support for monitoring and automation, and the ENGAGE service assurance solution for proactive QoS support.
The Enable software can be used on cable and terrestrial set-top boxes and hybrid cable/IP and terrestrial/IP devices. The company says the low processing and memory requirements for the software are among the reasons Enable can extract so much performance from legacy set-top box populations.
Cincinnati Bell carried out a major infrastructure upgrade to support its high-capacity Fioptics network so it could offer customers a rich media interface and advanced applications. Tom Simpson, Chief Technology Officer at Cincinnati Bell, says of his company’s Enable deployment: “We wanted to present our subscriber base with a fresh user interface and new media choices without the time-consuming logistics or major costs of a complete hardware replacement.
“The challenge was to extend the life of the set-top boxes we already had in the field. Amino worked with our team to transform the user experience for our customers through Enable. The result was huge savings on new equipment and installation costs.”
PCCW Media, the largest Pay TV provider in Hong Kong and another early adopter of Enable, used the software platform on third-party STBs when it launched its ‘Now One’ integrated 4K UHD STB. You can read more about that deployment here. Both these deployments were completed at a fraction of the cost of a full hardware refresh.
Amino showed the new third-party version of its Enable set-top box software at Broadcast Asia last week and ANGA represented its European debut. Thanks to its existing deployments, Enable is already integrated with a number of STB hardware providers including ZTE, Samsung, Hybroad and Xavii and this pool will expand, the company says.
Donald McGarva, Amino’s Chief Executive, comments: “As we move into the era of all IP-Cloud television and video, the massive barrier facing operators across the globe is the millions of legacy set-top boxes they are invested in. It is a case of upcycle or die, as these installed STBs need to be brought into the modern multiscreen, multi-device, multi-service world – but the expense of doing so is chilling.
“Most players need a cost-effective way to provide state-of-the-art services across their entire customer base. Enable gives them the ability to do that and shift towards a world in which all applications and services can be delivered over IP, on-demand from the cloud to any device, anytime, anywhere.”