Broadcast: DVB-C & MPEG2
Return Path: EuroDOCSIS
Set Top Boxes
|Pace||DiTV1000||Hitachi SH3||8MB||4MB||Ethernet needs crossover cable|
|DiTV1000b||8MB||4MB||Ethernet works with regular cable|
|DiTV2000||Multiple processors integrated into one|
|Di4000N||Conextant ARM||32MB||4MB||Major revision, ARM CPU, removed RS232 & LPT1, replaced by USB, audio out jacks removed, one card slot, new front panel design based on Di4001|
|Samsung||SMT2100C||32MB||Similar hardware to Di4000|
Cable & Wireless digital launch
In 1997, Cable and Wireless Communications embarked on an ambitious program to be the first cable provider in the UK to offer customers a truly interactive digital cable television service. This service would utilize the unique return path that cable providers to give consumers full interactivity through their television. This would eventually allow customers to have access to email and the internet a well a interactive broadcasts that include multiple angle camera shots at sporting events, near video on-demand and play-along game shows.
The EPG was designed to cater primarily to two groups of customers, higher educated families and younger actives. Both of these groups are seen by CWC as best match groups for the market factors that they were trying to cover. These included a higher that average disposable income a high propensity toward technical products, and a high use of similar products like video rental. While these groups were the target market, CWC did not want to exclude the other users so CWC commissioned futura.com to research viewer reaction to the EPG and the Preview channel. The major finding were hat customers would expend extra effort to watch their favourite program. They preferred surfing to planning. They liked the idea of a program grid, not considered to be a well established way of showing information to viewers in the Uk and they liked the idea of being able to search for programs by subject.
So CWC set about designing an EPG that had the following design principles;
- Avoid alienating any users
- Easy to use
- Easy to read
- Supports TV viewing
- Minimum steps to reach popular features
While the primary target audience was considered to be techno-savvy, CWC wanted all users to want to use the EPG. They were, as will all EPGs, up against the very established traditional printed TV guides that consumers were used to.
This makes ease of use, ability to read, and the ability to support TV viewing while looking at listings very important. It wasn’t just the consumer/interface requirements that were driving the EPG design, CWC also had to consider the requirements that the business had. These included the usual business-type requirements like the maximization of revenue, embodiment of company and brand values, and to provide a platform for future enhanced TV programs.
On the technical side, CWC chose to follow the open standard web based approach using liberate software on the client. CWC also chose to use the DVB standard backend to deliver the MPEG video and service information through the in-band stream. This lives the out of band return path free to deliver Web and other interactive content via the MCNS cable modem. With all of this in mind, CWC designed an EPG that had 80 percent of the most useful functionality contained in two overlay screens that can be called up by a single button pressed while watching television.
The now & Next bar appears each time a user changed channels, or when they specifically call it using a handset button. The most basic functions of showing what is on now and next is provided with the user having any interaction, but users can scroll down to find out what is on later, and scroll sideways to view what is showing now and later on other channels
The other overlay is the favourite channels overlay. CWC have implemented tis as a list of channels the user can apply Chanel orders to. This allows users to have their favourite channels listed in the order they want at the top of their list, whilst CWC maintains the ability to insert new high priority channels at the top of the original channel list. This would mean they are inserted into the consumers channel list below their favourite channels, thus eliminating the problem of unhappy customers who do not like their favourite numbering altered. While these two screens will offer 80 percent of the EPG functionality to all users, the more techno-minded consumer can delve deeper into the EPG, to customise it and use the extra functionality. The extra functionality that users will find ae sections such as the TV choice, an editorial style magazine section where CWC can highlight programs in more detail, and use the opportunity to drive more customers to recommended programming. Other areas include program grids and subject searches.
The EPG can also be used to book Tv on-demand events. Once booked, these will be inserted into the diary . The diary can also store other program events, and a customer will be visually reminded of their program shortly before it starts. As with other things in the EPG, a more technical user can customise the length of time before an event reminder appears. In the future, it is envisioned that this diary functionality will be developed into a more complete personal organiser function. The area that the EPG allows users to access are enhanced television services, for example interactive television game shows, There is also access to the TV internet product and email. He designs for these allow for the user to maintain this small screen TV that is available in other parts of the EPG to watch TV while writing email or browsing a website.
The early Pace boxes were very ahead of their time, and were one of the first cable set top boxes with a built in DOCSIS cable modem. American STB’s from Motorola and Scientific Atlanta had use the Starvue and DAVIC protocols respectively. By integrating the modem into the set top box, this allowed Cable & Wireless to incorporate Digital TV and broadband into one piece of hardware, rather than providing the two separately.
However there where limitations that came with this, due to the amount of processors that were crammed in to achieve this (main CPU, modem CPU, demodulator, MPEG2 decoder, Nagravision decoder), these set top boxes ran very hot.
ntl: takes over
Software Version History
Basic digital TV service
|CR2||February 2000||Support for use of DOCSIS return path, Activation of “walled garden” interactive system, making around 40 content partner sites available, not deployed in former videotron areas|
|CR3||July 2002||Based on liberate 1.2 codebase, resigned user interface|
|Software version||iEPG version||date||description|
|3_3_P4N_P_P4001||4.3 b07||Aug 2005|
|3_3B_17_PO3N_N_2100||4.4 b06||Apr 2006||Video on Demand, Liberate client 1.275.17|
Understanding the number scheme
Lets take a look at one of the earlier builds;
Px = the generation of Pace STB the build has been compiled for, Pace DITV1000/1b is P1, Pace DiTV2000 is P2, and the Pace Di4000N is P3
The next segment relates to the embedded EPG deployed in the STB, in the example above this will be .53
The segment after that related to the liberate client build used, in this case 25d. This has little to do with the actual Liberate versions (1.2) but the browser customised by ntl
The last section is self explanatory and shows the generation of the software, this would be CR2
At some point after the initial CR3 ntl merged its software development with it’s Langely system and the version numbering had changed, the goal for both platforms being driven by the same software. Also iEPG seems to have been introduced to replace the Pace EPG, along with the DVB signal information that is used.
Documents & Manuals
Pace DiTV2000 Internals
Similar to the DiTV1000 and Di4001 but with a few changes to the layout. The RAM is now on the mainboard instead of being a separate module.
Broadcom BCM3250KPB – Frontend demodulator, decodes the DOCSIS and DVB-C signals from the tuners and extracts the data from the transport streams
C-CUBE AVIA GTX – Handles DVB decoding/Descrambling and handles the onscreen graphics
C-CUBE AViA@tv AViA-600L – MPEG2 Decoder
Pace N0BI-2 Rev B – No idea on this one? Nagravision?
Conexant CX22490-16 – Very similar to what’s in the Pace Di4000N
Installer mode (Samsung SMT 2100C)
To access, power off the STB and hold the Up and Down buttons whilst reapplying the keep holding until you see DIAG on the front panel display.
Di4000N Specific – Hold Up and Down buttons until you see ldr on the front panel display, continue holding buttons too enter eng mode or release to force boot
ntl Developer Website 2003 (Archive)
ntl Developer Website 2001 (Archive)
CWC Developer Website (Archive)
Liberate Technologies, Customers (archive.org) – Cable&Wireless announcement