Swisscom committed to its own CPE; backs Android OS

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    Swisscom is throwing its weight behind Android open source OS for the set-top box, including for a future Ultra HD platform, the company revealed at Connected TV Summit in London this week. Peter Fregelius, Strategy & Innovation Head at Swisscom, described the success of the new Swisscom TV 2.0, its improved IPTV service that, among other things, includes a redesigned user interface and network PVR for use on the STB (the company already offered nPVR for multiscreen viewing). Swisscom TV 2.0 required a new set-top box that the telco developed itself using the open source version of Android Jelly Bean OS, while Fregelius revealed that Swisscom is planning to base a future Ultra HD set-top box platform on Android ‘L’. He appealed to other IPTV providers who are interested in going down the Android road and also developing more cloud-based solutions to get in touch, in an effort to build some cooperative scale.

    The latest set-top box, running Swisscom TV 2.0, is now in the field, with 80,000 devices shipped since service launch this spring. One of the benefits of the new device is fast boot-up; the STB goes from standby to services in 2-4 seconds and from cold-start to services within 30 seconds.

    Swisscom is using an HTML based app store in partnership with Opera, while certain apps are developed natively on Android. “One of the drivers for us to use Android is that we believe there is going to be an app ecosystem on the television set and we think we can tap into the community of app developers and so react quickly [to consumer demands and new services arriving],” he told the London conference. “So if there is a new equivalent to Facebook we can add that as an app so the customer has access to the service and does not need to leave our service. Our strategy is to embrace OTT content as much as possible.”

    Fregelius made it clear that Swisscom is committed to deploying its own set-top boxes, although the company is currently considering whether it can deliver a free television service (which would be bundled with broadband) direct to consumers via television sets. This is the service he talked about last year at this same conference, with the vSTB (virtual set-top box) viewed as one possible CPE strategy then. But as with Orange (see separate story), the telco does not expect any significant CE cooperation for its primary device entry point.

    One of the technologies the company is looking at now, in the context of a direct-to-television offering, is CI+ 1.4, where you can use a CAM for IPTV. But the heart of the Swisscom customer premise equipment strategy is to develop its own devices. “We have concluded that, though CE manufacturers are great people, we have totally different business models to them and that we do not want to rely on any hardware other than our own,” Fregelius declared.

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