Ever since the early days of cable TV, delivering the best entertainment to our customers has been part of our DNA. But the technology has changed beyond recognition.
The introduction of the set box at the start of the millennium was a step change, and since then it has become a key enabler of innovative entertainment services beyond simply watching TV. The introduction of time-shifted viewing, on-demand, radio, apps and catch-up services transformed television into more of a ‘home-cinema’ experience, with full flexible access to TV- and OTT-programming. The introduction of our cutting-edge Horizon 4 TV platform has been the latest step in our set top box journey, with 4K, a beautiful user interface, voice-controlled remote-control unit and a fully synchronized 360 multi-room experience both on the big screen and on handheld devices.
But our drive to continue innovating has taken us even further on our journey, enabled by the ability of our fibre-based cable systems to support the delivery of IP-based services. The logical next step was our 4K Mini TV Box.
We established some clear goals from the start based on our insights – our newest set top box had to be small, green, all-IP and easy to connect, while still delivering a complete TV user experience. It had to have all the pay-TV features, while also having the appeal of a streaming device. And it had to be robust in connectivity, quality and performance since our customers expect nothing less. Achieving these goals by themselves would have been simple, but the combination of goals required us to stretch our design thinking and technology development given simple science. Reducing the size of a set top box so it could fit behind and be powered by the TV or be delivered through a standard mail slot required a new approach to thermal, interference, power and WiFi management.
With all of this in mind we and our partners designed a form factor which was small and flat enough for the box to be hidden behind the television, even with the flattest wall-mount. We used recyclable materials, moved away from using fans to heatsinks for cooling and used the expertise of our broadband engineers to design the best antenna placement for WiFi performance.
The next stage was extensive testing. In a previous blog, my colleagues Gavin and Mark talked about Liberty Global’s WiFi warehouse and explained how it had been created to delight our customers with validated high-quality products. This unique facility was instrumental to the testing of our 4K Mini TV Box by validating its WiFi performance and demonstrating that it remained robust even when placed behind a TV, or further away from the access point. We also worked closely with our partner, Commscope, to validate thermals at the highest temperatures, ensuring the box could be powered by the TV-USB port at low power levels.
Our Horizon 4 platform based on RDK is cutting-edge in terms of technology and flexibility since it enabled us to port the TV user experience across different hardware. Once the 4K Mini TV box had been designed, developed and tested it didn’t take us long to have the full Horizon 4 functionality running on our smallest and greenest device ever.
The finished product was a set top box that fits in the palm of your hand, which enables you to watch TV, record programs, binge on TV series, and use apps wrapped together in a beautiful user interface, helping you to discover the very best content. Small and green with no cables, just over WiFi.
The launch of the 4K Mini TV Box into UPC Poland is a big milestone for Liberty Global – small in size but big in impact. But it won’t be the last. We’ve always led the way in TV entertainment experiences, so watch this space.
More on the Mini TV Box.