In the July/August issue of Euromedia is our Annual Survey of the CPE sector; providers and vendors views on where we are and where we are going – in the age of the cloud and the virtualised world, what kind of set top will subscribers homes need?
The debate has a first world problem feel to it, not least as it sometimes sounds like that other perpetual modern obsession; the ‘debate’ on obesity. Will CPE be fat or thin – or, some day, so skinny it actually disappears? The reassuring thing for our remaining STB makers is that in the developing world this debate still seems pretty arcane; for millions of connected homes simple STBs will remain beside the TV for many years to come.
But elsewhere the demise or otherwise of CPE has been intrinsically linked to the fate of the ‘traditional’ service provider – if OTT delivered direct to a smart TV or other connected device would satisfy many (most?) subscribers in an age of austerity, then cord cutting would go viral, leading to the demise of the service provider and, therefore, traditional CPE.
But while cord cutting is not exactly ‘the dog that didn’t bite’ it is, at least, only eating the CPE industry’s lunch one small mouthful at a time. One reason is service providers have realised the value of packaging the most popular OTT brands into the managed service delivered via their CPE. But those added benefits; EPGs, recommendations, slick UIs, PVR, can all be delivered via the cloud to a thin client or even no client… no guaranteed future for the CPE here.
So, smart service providers are parking their tanks on the next available lawn; the Smart Home and more broadly the Internet of Things. As this concept becomes reality in the next few years, customers are going to see and want the benefits but are also going to feel the nervousness of committing so much control to the ‘computers.’ And every time a driverless concept car comes off the test track or is taken over by a hacker, those nerves will heighten.
A service provider is the perfect trusted partner to take the pain and panic out of the IoT in the home – but being the junction box that controls the traffic of IoT and, more importantly, secures it, seems very likely to need CPE of the more corpulent variety.