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In Oklahoma, visiting the parents. Or, disecting their IP TV serice.

I’ve spent the better part of tonight figuring out if the television-over-IP service they get will do HDTV, or at the very least playing with it to see what it can do. It’s provided by the local telco, who I’ve been at odds with many times in the past. I will give them credit for rolling out television/telephone/intrawebs over ADSL, not many people are doing that.

The set-top box is of most interest to me. Ethernet in, video/audio out. The unit even has a kludgy web browser that totally sucks. In its setup menu it has an option to change aspect ratios; looks like this applies mostly to the unit’s menus.

It has analog coax out, s-video, analog and digital audio out, and a round 9-pin port (similar to s-video) labeled “VGA’. It took a while to figure out, but apparently that is a “VIVO” ( Video In Video Out) plug that’s popular on nVIDIA graphics cards. It turns out you can buy cables to split that out into s-video or component video. I’m sure the cable is going to be annoyingly difficult to find in a store. So it seems the box can probably output component, but it’s unknown if it has a MPEG decoder and whatnot to possibly uncompress a HDTV stream.

Further digging…

The internet connection right out of the wall jack (which is wired to the NID) is already NAT’d and hands out a 192.168.1.x address via DHCP. Going to my default gateway IP address brings me to a login for a Pannaway “Residential Gateway NID(tm)” with a picture of the white box that’s bolted to the outside of the house. Because the telco has control of this, it makes setting up port forwarding impossible.

Googling for “Cross Telephone television” brings me an article from VON Magazine from Feb 2005 which describes how Cross rolled out the service. This tells me the Pannaway NIDs speak SIP, which is interesting. They brand their serice as “Cross CableVision Ztv”.

The article says cross has 10,400 access lines, the “triple-play” (get ready, this term is used a lot) cost around $1.6 million. By the end of 2006 they project 20% of customers will use it, at $105 a sub per month. So that figures out to 2,080 customers bringing in a gross amount of $218,400 per month.

The set top box has absolutely no branding or the name of the manufacturer anywhere on it. There’s a small sticker with some numbers, but it doesn’t give away if it’s some sort of model or serial number. It’s an obnoxious little silver plastic box with blue LEDs in front, about the size of a couple VHS cassettes. The remote control says “Myrio”. This is where we get deeper into the rabbit hole.

Myrio is a “middleware” company. Apparently they write the software that runs on IPTV boxes along with some back-end customer fulfilment/billing software. It looks like they’re not the set-top box manufacturer I’m looking for. But, they do have a case study about Pioneer Telephone, who’s another Oklahoma telco. They’re not Cross, but they’re likely using similar stuff. This gives me more names to check out; Calix, Entone, Amino Technologies, Widevine, and Tut Systems.

Apparently many people have their grubby little mitts in IPTV services, somebody different providing a little different piece of the puzzle. Calix appares to produce the service aggrigation kit; shoving voice, intrawebs, broadcast video, and on-demand video onto IP. Entone and Amino make IP set top boxes and other assorted gadgets. Widevine encrypts content across IP video networks. Tut Systems, there’s so much marketing fuh I gave up trying to figure out their purpose in life. I learned a new abbreviation, everyone refers to “set top box” as ‘STB’. John Dvorak has a beefy list of other IPTV players too.

I looked through the product lines of Entone and Amino, I couldn’t find the obnoxious silver beast anywhere. Going back to Google, I search with another buzzword, ‘IPTV’. This time I find an article from Telephony Online. Here we see the GM of Cross saying “We’re hoping that HDTV comes really soon.” blah.

So, it seems we’re HDTV-over-IP-less here. Over-the-air HDTV isn’t too interesting, plugging our address into antennaweb.org shows we can only get PBS and ABC. Even then, the antenna for those two are 148 degrees apart so it’s very unlikely to hit both at the same time.

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