CableLabs: 'Light sleep mode' can reduce energy consumption, but only in new set-tops

While CableLabs said Monday that cable operators can reduce energy consumption in subscriber homes by shifting set-tops into "light sleep" mode, only newer set-tops from Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI), Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) and other vendors offer that power option.

CableLabs said tests conducted at its Energy Lab facility in Colorado have found that newer set-tops deployed by U.S. cable MSOs can offer energy savings of 20 percent or more while in light sleep mode, which is "a lower-power condition that allows essential activities within a set-top box to continue while energy consumption associated with other tasks, such as channel tuning and video display, is discontinued." The technology consortium said it anticipates that U.S. MSOs will have 10 million set-tops capable of light-sleep mode deployed by the end of 2012.

But the vast majority of digital set-tops that have been deployed by Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and other CableLabs members aren't capable of light-sleep mode, including legacy digital set-tops such as the Motorola DCT-2000 or the early Scientific Atlanta Explorer set-tops (a brand now owned by Cisco). There are 86.8 million digital set-tops in U.S. cable homes, including 35.4 million standard-definition set-tops, 22.6 million DVRs, 14.9 million high-definition set-tops and 14 million digital terminal adapters, according to Consumer Electronics Association.

This fall, CableLabs said major cable MSOs will begin to send software upgrades to some existing digital set-tops in subscriber homes "to enable light-sleep mode in models capable of that functionality." It didn't say which set-top models will be capable of light-sleep mode.

CableLabs and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association announced the formation of the Energy Lab facility last fall. While it may be several years before cable operators replace legacy set-tops that aren't capable of sleep mode when not in use, the effort to deploy new Energy Star 3.0 compliant set-tops has appeased legislators such as Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), who have pushed MSOs to deploy energy efficient set-tops.

For more:
- see the news release

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