Charter testing Cisco's remote DVR, Wi-Fi technology

Charter Communications appears to be gearing up to test a remote DVR capability with partner Cisco, as well as new Wi-Fi offerings. Cisco disclosed the news in a recent filing the company made with the FCC.

"Cisco currently is working with Charter on a remote DVR trial for IP video to the home, and on backbone and regional access network upgrades to enhance Charter's ability to support streamed video traffic through its network to the customer premises," Cisco said in its filing. "In addition, Cisco is assisting Charter to enable IP distribution through Wi-Fi in the home and exploring ways to expand that capability outside the home."

When asked for details, Cisco spokesperson Sara Cicero said "we continue to work together in their labs on this, as they [Charter] prepare to work toward field trials." A Charter spokesperson wasn't immediately able to comment on the filing.

That Cisco and Charter are working together on remote DVR technology and other services comes as little surprise. In January, Cisco and Charter announced a major teaming under which Cisco will supply "key products" for Charter's next-generation "Worldbox" video product, including a downloadable security solution (DCAS) for set-top boxes and a digital rights management (DRM) solution to support video services on a range of IP devices. Cisco also will supply a "substantial share" of Charter's forthcoming Worldbox set-top box.

However, the companies' announcement in January made no mention of remote DVR services. But at the IBC show in Amsterdam in September, Cisco announced its new "Infinite" suite of cloud-powered video solutions that the company said would allow operators to "deliver outstanding TV experiences to multiple screens, utilizing one cloud, on any access network, within the home and on the go." The company's "Infinite" brand essentially replaces the Videoscape-branded cloud DVR product that Cisco announced early last year.

Charter currently supports DVRs from the likes of Arris and others. The company advertises the ability to remotely schedule recordings on some of its DVRs, but it does not advertise remote or cloud DVR options.

Cloud DVR technology -- which is likely the same thing as a "remote" DVR -- essentially allows users to record TV shows and other content and store those recordings in the cloud rather than locally on an in-home set-top box. Such an approach helps to cut down on the cost of set-top boxes since they don't have to store potentially hundreds of hours of video. And cloud DVR services can potentially allow customers to access their recordings from a variety of devices and locations, rather than just from their set-top box in their home.

Of course, Charter and Cisco aren't the only companies playing in the cloud DVR space. Comcast earlier this year announced it is almost finished with its own deployment of cloud DVR services to its X1 box. And Cablevision has offered various cloud DVR options for years.

Cisco made its FCC filing in conjunction with the agency's review of Charter's proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, a transaction that both the companies and analysts expect to close later this year. Not surprisingly, Cisco said it supported Charter's proposed purchase of its two rival cable operators.

For more:
- see this Cisco FCC filing

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Cloud DVRs: Another check that pay TV seems unable to cash
Comcast: Cloud DVR rollout is almost complete