A rash of mergers, acquisitions and partnerships among makers of set-top boxes and network equipment vendors is redrawing the map for the STB industry, according to a new study named "IPTV Customer Premises Equipment" from ABI Research.
First Cisco announced its intent to purchase Scientific-Atlanta. Then in rapid succession Alcatel increased its stake in 2Wire, Siemens concluded a partnership agreement with Entone, and Thomson announced its intent to purchase Thales.
According to Michael Arden, ABI Research's principal analyst of residential entertainment technologies, this trend marks a sharp turning point in the structure of the industry. In telco TV's initial phases, he says, the makers of STBs and related CPE strictly guarded their independence and supported operators' wishes for the security of a diverse vendor base. "Players in the market had a fear of the way the cable TV industry looks today in the US with a virtual duopoly dominated by Scientific-Atlanta and Motorola," Arden say.
But in light of Cisco's announcement about Scientific-Atlanta, a number of other vendors appear to have done a sudden rethink of their priorities.
"I think what we're seeing is a fundamental change," says Arden. "It starts to look as if the CPE equipment will be part of one big package with the network equipment. Once they saw Cisco and Scientific-Atlanta together, other STB vendors suddenly realized that they might not be able to go it alone; they might need to partner-up."
The Cisco/S-A unification also adds an international twist, because Cisco has a broad international customer base. There is fear among competitors that Scientific-Atlanta might get a huge foothold in the rest of the world in addition to its dominance in the United States.