The STB vs The Cloud Debate

Over the past couple years, the telecommunications industry has been evaluating new developments in set-top box technology, as well as the concept of virtual set-top boxes (vSTBs), often described as “the cloud.”

While many believe that the vSTB is primed to replace the STB, others disagree, and the assessment of both continues.

Here’s a look at the conversation.


Many favor continuing with the STB for the time being simply because it works. As the device is directly plugged into a television set, there is not much room for error.

According to Erwan Nedellec, Senior Expert on Audio Video Devices at French mobile company Orange, the vSTB is just not there yet and they’re sticking with STBs for now.

“We need improvements in the vSTB approach before we can be confident of a great user experience with it and before we can go any further with this idea,” he said.

UK media consulting firm Decipher also feels that the cloud isn’t ready for prime time.

“There is an assumption that because of Smart TVs and OTT apps like Netflix we are moving to a ‘cloud’ TV world, but that is one whole generational leap away. Before then we have a decade where the super STBs dominate home media,” explains Nigel Walley, Decipher MD.

A 2013 study from Multimedia Research Group, Inc., found that “overall demand for set-top box products has remained healthy and is projected to remain solid for the next few years.”

Futuresource Consulting, which recently released “The Global Set-Top-Box Market Update Report,” appraised the STB market at $20 billion.

The Cloud/vSTB

The cloud is appealing because of its massive storage space. While a physical STB could become filled to its capacity, a vSTB utilizes online servers and operates as the hardware would in the interpretation of IPTV content. It also negates having another bulky product in the living room, and is said to increase overall efficiency.

A vSTB generally takes the form of software for a connected device or television.

German company Telekom Innovation Laboratories believes that “[virtualizing] the set-top box enables quicker innovation cycles and cost savings,” stating that the “robustness of the technology and its acceptance by users were tested, comprehensively and successfully.”

TV technology provider launched their version of a vSTB last autumn, and said at the time that a vSTB is “easy to update, and delivers multi-room efficacy with a network PVR. We believe that the virtual STB should be part of any IPTV strategy.”

At the 2014 TV Connect Event, Siemens unveiled its OTT SWIPE® vSTB app, claiming the technology “reduces operational costs [and] improves time to market.”

It seems that it’s still yet to be seen what will come of the vSTB.
To learn more about this debate, check out this panel discussion held by executives at this year’s Connected TV World Summit, titled “How Realistic Is The Virtual Set-Top Box.”

Author: Brian Cameron

Image credit: Flickr
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1 comment:

  1. Is it indeed about a duel? Isn't CI+ CAM an alternative to both STB and vSTB?