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1 August 2019

TDS joins Android TV arms race using Arris, TiVo, Velocix, Verimatrix

A relative minnow in the US pay TV arena called TDS Telecom has joined the race to become the country’s first operator to launch a TV service built around Android TV Operator Tier. Despite strong suggestions from this week’s announcement that TDS could be first to market, the telco told us that fellow US operators Windstream and RCN are in the driving seat to get their Android TV Operator Tier offerings to market first, while TDS will follow “later this year”.

Based out of Madison, Wisconsin, and listed as the 20th-largest multichannel video service provider with 156,000 video subscribers, TDS Telecom is preparing the roll out of a new TV offering built around its cloud TV platform TDS TV+. It will run on an Arris-made Android TV set top with TiVo software, delivered over Velocix CDN infrastructure and secured by Verimatrix.

TDS has developed its own cloud TV back office technology, bridging the gap between the Arris VIP6102W IP set top, TiVo user interface, voice-enabled remote control and third party apps like Netflix. TDS wouldn’t tell us if any third-party suppliers helped build the cloud TV back office infrastructure.

It will feature TDS TV Everywhere, pay-per-view programming and 260 linear channels, the same as the previous version. The Arris hardware supports UHD 4K video, with WiFi 5 (strangely not WiFi 6 given Arris’ focus here) and, interestingly, the platform can also be configured with RDK 3.0 and Arris KreaTV software for additional UI options.

Operator Tier requires a dedicated launcher as we know and while vendors like Accedo and 3SS are experts here, some operators prefer to build their own. However, TDS confirmed to Faultline Online Reporter that TiVo is supplying the launcher and other client software, along with the core TiVo service which provides the metadata, recommendation engine and universal search. The launcher does very much build on what TiVo calls Experience 4 and adds in the unique elements from Android TV.

TiVo is an existing supplier to TDS Telecom having helped it built the next-gen platform to roll out IPTV services in July last year, including improved personalization and recommendations, voice control, unified discovery across OTT, linear, on-demand and cloud DVR platforms, plus multiscreen capabilities.

Like TDS, US cable operator RCN has chosen TiVo for its Android TV Operator Tier escapade, announced in April but pending launch for later this year. Windstream, meanwhile, has selected MobiTV for its new Kinetic TV service which was supposed to launch this month. The legacy Kinetic pay TV offering was a Mediaroom account and – after recently shuttering the service – Windstream instead made the brazen move of going with Operator Tier over the new MediaFirst platform from MediaKind. Similarly, TDS Telecom’s 2018 upgrade to the TiVo platform signaled the switch out of the legacy Mediaroom system powering the TDS TV platform.

So, with Windstream set to be first to market in the US with an Android TV Operator Tier deployment, the first tier 1 launch is soon to follow with AT&T TV – the giant’s Android TV-based skinny client which is beginning trials in Q3. The floodgates are open and Faultline Online Reporter can revel in knowing that we were one of the first to say Android TV Operator Tier would break the US in mid-to-late 2019 – when the technology was just emerging in Europe.

“We turned to Arris because we needed a more efficient platform for IP video delivery that combined both managed and un-managed video delivery options. The new platform enables TDS to customize the user experience for different customer segments,” said Ken Paker, CTO and SVP of Information and Network Technologies at TDS. “By combining Arris’ industry-leading technology, services, and experience with Android TV’s UI, designed around content discovery and voice search, TDS can now provide customers with an easy-to-use, application-based video experience.”

CommScope-owned Arris is also supplying its Professional Services to support the deployment with a customized user experience, integration into the TDS system and a remote control firmware upgrade application – all managed by the Arris ECO Service Management platform. Arris has had dealings at TDS previously, supplying its revered E6000 Converged Edge Router CCAP platform which enables customers to achieve up to 70% increase in headend service group density without consuming more rack space, with a software-based headend upgrade path to the Remote PHY (R-PHY) Distributed Access Architecture (DAA).

TDS has 1.2 million wireline connections, covering broadband, IPTV, cable TV and traditional wireline services. Although up by 700 subscribers since Q1 last year, TDS Telecom’s video subscriber base has dropped off in the last few quarters, declining by about 1,200 in the first quarter.

Supplanting Mediaroom strongholds has become an Android TV Operator Tier theme and the technology is now beginning to get its claws into lucrative US accounts – setting the stage for a critical Q3 and thrilling IBC.