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WOW poised to beat AT&T to Android TV US debut

It appears our prediction about Android TV operator tier breaking the US market is on the verge of coming to fruition sooner than expected. Wide Open West (WOW) is the US cable operator biting the bullet, according to Android TV Rumors which spotted an FCC filing for a remote control manufactured by Indian firm Ohsung Electronics.

WOW will reportedly be deploying a Technicolor set top based on Android TV soon, in doing so shifting away from TiVo having deployed a hybrid IP/QAM device from the vendor last year in partnership with Evolution Digital. Although, TiVo’s transition away from hardware is well-documented and the vendor has been emphasizing its Android TV product line, so may well be involved in the project, having recently unveiled CubiTV for Android TV, a pre-integrated product targeted at customers wanting to deploy Android TV operator tier. TiVo says CubiTV uses a set top agnostic architecture to control costs and a modular approach allows operators to add on features while scaling. We have reached out to TiVo in the meantime with the opportunity to provide any insights.

Technicolor, meanwhile, claims something like a 75% win rate in Android TV deployments and a recent conversation with the newly streamlined vendor centered around the end of the age where companies have their own middleware. Interestingly though, Luis Martinez-Amago, President of Technicolor’s Connected Home division, vehemently defended his view that no major US operator would roll out an Android TV service anytime soon. This point alone makes us skeptical of this week’s rumors. Of course, AT&T is preparing to launch a streaming device based on Android TV operator tier, running on a Broadcom BCM7271 chipset, with initial trials due to commence early this year, but AT&T hasn’t published an update since January. Perhaps Martinez-Amago’s interpretation was as a replacement for pay TV rather than an added extra. But of course, any Android TV launch is a precursor to a replacement further down the line.

The resistance to Android TV operator tier in the US is holding firm for now, but with European counterparts enjoying much success through embracing the open TV ecosystem on offer, we have been saying for some time this resistance is in jeopardy. In fact, a number of video technology vendors have teased their own predictions about a major North American operator rolling out an Android TV service before the end of 2019.

In all honesty, Charter Communications was our favorite to grant Android TV operator tier its US breakthrough, after the cable operator suggested recently that Comcast’s X1 platform, which it has been teetering on licensing for a while, wasn’t up to the job. “The US resistance against Android TV is waning and Charter has just inadvertently tipped itself to be the technology’s US breakthrough,” we said at the time. Of course, Charter may still beat WOW to launch although the company appears to be biding its time.

It’s the first significant piece of vendor news from WOW since March 2018 when it selected OSS and BSS software vendor Intraway to supply its Symphonica orchestration platform, targeting residential services in the US for future phases of deployment as part of the US ISP’s digital transformation initiative. The Symphonica platform allows end users of WOW business services to set the framework to support future operation models such as Self-Care, Self-Provisioning and APIs for easier integration into analytics and advanced diagnostic tools.

On a more ominous note, ramifications from the US blacklisting of Huawei and subsequent exclusion by Google could reach beyond mobile. Rumors have circled this week that Android TV deployments are being slowed due to the use of set top chipsets from Huawei subsidiary HiSilicon – a stern warning to any operator planning to deploy the technology, from hearsay which we’ll be aiming to uncover the truth behind in the coming weeks.

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