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Need primer on cablecard vs. digital adapter

Need primer on cablecard vs. digital adapter

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Contributor Enduser0304
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Posts: 5
Registered: ‎01-12-2015
Message 1 of 11
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We're currently the last analog cable customers in the U.S. and thanks to my sports-loving spouse,  we're finally considering switching to FIOS. 

 

We have 5 tv's in our home.   We're thinking we'll get 1 STB and maybe one dvr but for the other 3 t.v.'s, I'd like to keep it as economical as possible. 

 

With cable, we don't use a box, the cables are connected directly to our t.v.'s.  I don't need pay per view or on demand. 

 

I've been researching for the past few hours and I have a few questions:

 

1.  Digital adapter vs. Cable card- why would I want 1 over the other?  Don't they do the same thing or does one provide more channel access than the other?

 

2.  Do I need an external tuner for a cable card or can it connect directly to a t.v.?

 

3.  Does our home computer have to be involved in this process? (I want to keep this as simple as possible so I'm hoping the answer is no.)

 

4.  Can I buy a cable card or digital adapter somewhere rather than leasing it from Verizon?

 

5.  The comments I've seen in other threads regarding Verizon support for these products doesn't inspire confidence, has this worked smoothly for anyone?

 

6.  What channels can I get with one of these devices?  I've seen some say they can get HBO on their t.v.'s and others talking about "local channels" only. 

 

Thanks for reading.  I look forward to understanding this more.

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Gold Contributor V Gold Contributor V
Gold Contributor V
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Registered: ‎12-02-2012
Message 2 of 11
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1.  Digital adapter vs. Cable card- why would I want 1 over the other?  Don't they do the same thing or does one provide more channel access than the other?

 

Digital television adapters (DTAs) are really very simple set-top-boxes.  Depending on the model of DTA and the service provider, it may offer a simple guide but usually it does not  It cannot access Video On Demand nor can it access a multi-room DVR (if you have one).  DTAs are often standard definition only.

 

Cable cards are small cards that hanle the decryption of TV programs.  They do not handle any services, that is done by the TV.

 

2.  Do I need an external tuner for a cable card or can it connect directly to a t.v.

 

No, The TV uses it's own tuner and routes encrypted channels through the cable card.  If your package includes access to an encrypted channel, the cable card will decode it and pass it back to the TV for display.

 

With a cable card all channel numbers and guide services are handled by the TV.  In many cases, the channel numbers will not match those used on standard STBs or the DTA.

 

3.  Does our home computer have to be involved in this process? (I want to keep this as simple as possible so I'm hoping the answer is no.)

 

No.

 

4.  Can I buy a cable card or digital adapter somewhere rather than leasing it from Verizon?

 

No.  You must rent it from the provider.  It's one of the ways providers charge for each TV in the home.

 

5.  The comments I've seen in other threads regarding Verizon support for these products doesn't inspire confidence.

 

Cable cards aren't very popular.  The FCC mandated them years ago ("separable security") in a miss-guided attempt to create a third party market for set-top-boxes, DVRs, and smart TVs. In fact, if you look at a modern STB it has a cable card screwed into it in order to meet the FCC mandate.

 

However, 3rd party cable card equipped devices can't give users the same experience as a cable-co STB.  The cable companies didn't want to open up the guide and advanced services to enable consumer electronics companies to sell into their space, so they made it as unappealing as possible.  Thus, the market never took off.

 

That said, TiVO users are frequent consumers of cable cards, as the TiVO system provides it's own guide and advanced services.  In the end, most TiVO users pay about the same, if not more, as a cable company provided DVR at today's rates.

 

The FCC has rescinded their order for "separable security," so the supply of cable cards may dry up.  New STBs won't have removable cable cards.  Cable companies might recyle them to uses who rent them, but I wouldn't want to be in the cable card business these days.

 

DTAs will be around longer, as they are an very low cost way to get TV without any services (including the guide).  Being SD only, most people upgrade to an HD box with full services.

 

6. What channels can I get with one of these devices?  I've seen some same they can get HBO on their t.v.'s and others talking about "local channels" only.

 

DTAs and Cable Cards are technically capable of decoding any channel.  HD only channels may be a problem for some DTAs if they don't support HD->SD downconversion.  Your best bet is to ask Verizon about the particular channels available on these devices in your market, as it can vary.

 

 

Even though you don't use on-demand, you may find you like it once you have it.  There is lots of free content on it including many popular shows.  And, it's nice to rent the occasional movie.

 

Enjoy digital TV, you'll find it's much better than analog.

 

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Platinum Contributor III Platinum Contributor III
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Message 3 of 11
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Let me simplify:

1) Verizon Digital Adapter - An SD only box that allows the SD channels that are part of your package.

2) Off the shelf digital adapter - A device that does QAM decoding. Basically only gives you the local channels in your area

3) Cable card - Think of it as a key for a device you can buy that will allow you to decode all of the channels that are part of the package you subscribe to. You just don't have access to On Demand. Most common device that people use with this is TIVO.

1&3 you have to rent from Verizon. 2 you can purchase yourself.

Hope this helps.


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Contributor Enduser0304
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Message 4 of 11
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Thanks for explaining,  I did have to google "QAM" ( I chose Enduser for my username for a reason- lol!).   Based on what you said, it sounds like a cablecard is my best option since a DTA won't display HD channels.

Gold Contributor V Gold Contributor V
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Registered: ‎12-02-2012
Message 5 of 11
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2) Off the shelf digital adapter - A device that does QAM decoding. Basically only gives you the local channels in your area

 

Clarification:

 

Off the shelf DTAs give access to local channels using an antenna and 8VSB modulation.  This is often the most cost effective way to get TV, as there are no monthly fees!  Bust you must have an antenna and good signal from your local stations.

 

Digital cable TV uses QAM modulation.  Most TVs have both 8VSB and QAM decoders and thus can receive over the air and digital cable channels.  If an off the shelf DTAs includes a QAM decoder in addition to the 8VSB decoder required for off-air reception, then it can get cable channels, too.

 

However, digital channels can and are encrypted to limit access to paying customers.  Encrypted channels needs to go through either a cable card or a cable-company box to be viewed.  Some cable companies encrypt every channel, some encrypt everything but locals and some only encrypt premiums.  In short, if you want to be sure you can watch every channel you subscribe to use a cable card, cable company DTA or cable company STB.

 

Enjoy.

 

 

 

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Contributor Enduser0304
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Message 6 of 11
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Thanks for explaining.  It sounds like a cable card would be my best option for accessing all the channels, even if cards are becoming outdated. 

Nickel Contributor
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Message 7 of 11
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No one seems to have mentioned that most TVs have no means to connect a cable card, absent a DVR such as Tivo.  The last model year that TVs were made to accommodate cable cards was 2006.  While a DTA can be connected directly to most any TV, I don't know how you would connect the cable card to the extra TVs you wish to include.

Gold Contributor V Gold Contributor V
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Message 8 of 11
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@ract wrote:

No one seems to have mentioned that most TVs have no means to connect a cable card, absent a DVR such as Tivo.  The last model year that TVs were made to accommodate cable cards was 2006.  While a DTA can be connected directly to most any TV, I don't know how you would connect the cable card to the extra TVs you wish to include.


Good point!  I haven't gone TV shopping for a while and when I do, I haven't looked for cable card (m-card) support.  My primary TV has a cable card slot, but it's a 2006 or 2007 model. 

 

So, if Enduser0304 has TV's with cable card slots, those could be used.  Otherwise, a DTA or STB will be needed.

 

Just goes to show how useless cable cards have become.

 

One other note; Verizon now allows some channels to be viewed live with the "FiOS" app on iPads.  This is another option that might reduce the number of TVs that need to be connected to cable.

 

Good Luck.

 

 

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Contributor Enduser0304
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Message 9 of 11
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ract

Copper Contributor
ract
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Registered: ‎01-12-2012
 
Re: Need primer on cablecard vs. digital adapter[ Edited ]
 

No one seems to have mentioned that most TVs have no means to connect a cable card, absent a DVR such as Tivo.  The last model year that TVs were made to accommodate cable cards was 2006.  While a DTA can be connected directly to most any TV, I don't know how you would connect the cable card to the extra TVs you wish to include.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for that very important piece of information!    I'm really glad I checked back to see if anyone else had commented.   All but one of our t.v.'s are fairly new.     The one that isn't is probably too old since it's not a flat screen.  I looked for a cable card slot on it last night but didn't see one.   So, unless I spent the $ for a TiVo, I can't use a cablecard.  This is a perfect example of why I don't want cable or FIOS: big corps nickeling and diming customers for every cent they can get instead of just being honest and charging one flat fee for the household.  I feel as though I'm being punished for having more than one television.  I'd rather cut the cord but there doesn't seem to be a way to do that if you have fans of multiple sports and multiple teams in a sport, especially college level sports, in your home.  My simple solution now is that only four sets will have any access to FIOS.  One will have a STB, one will have a DVR, and the other two will end up with digital adapters or a TiVo unless one of you knows if any video game systems can work with a cable card or some other form of technology to access FIOS.;

Platinum Contributor III Platinum Contributor III
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Message 10 of 11
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XBOX has access to the FIOS APP that you can use to access some FIOS channels.

Google FIOS XBOX for more details.


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