LOUISVILLE, CO – Digital set-top boxes being deployed by the U.S. cable industry this year are projected to offer energy savings of 20 percent or more when the devices shift into a new “light sleep” mode, according to recent evaluations by CableLabs - Energy Lab.

As part of a major new cable industry energy conservation initiative announced last fall, the six largest U.S. cable companies, serving approximately 85 percent of U.S. cable households, committed to deployment of a “light sleep” option for new set-top boxes beginning in September 2012. Some of those deployments already are under way. To further accelerate energy savings in the millions of existing digital set-top boxes, the operators will also begin providing software upgrades this fall to set-tops boxes already in consumer homes to enable light sleep in models capable of the functionality.

Measurements taken from the new CableLabs - Energy Lab show the significant improvement in average overall power consumption when the new software shifts the set-top boxes into a “light sleep” mode when they are not in active use. “Light sleep” refers to 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.  

“Our CableLabs Energy Lab test measured further reductions of 20 percent or more by implementing light sleep,” said Ralph Brown, CableLabs Chief Technology Officer. “Applying EPA estimates for how long a typical set-top powers down and the average energy savings we measured, this indicates annual energy savings of about 35 kilowatt hours per set-top. We anticipate that operators will have more than 10 million set-top boxes in light sleep operation by the end of this year.”

“We applaud the cable industry’s initial efforts to reduce the energy consumed by its set-top boxes and look forward to even greater efficiency gains in the future. Due to this light sleep initiative, more than 10 million installed DVRs will now use 20 to 30 percent less energy when they are not being used. This one change alone will save consumers over $44 million per year in electricity costs,” said Noah Horowitz, Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The increased energy efficiency for new model set-top boxes will build on the strides in recent years by cable operators to utilize devices with dramatically lower energy consumption than previous generations of equipment. Some of the cable industry’s efforts to improve energy efficiency include:

  • ENERGY STAR compliance. The vast majority of the set-top boxes purchased by the largest cable operators comply with ENERGY STAR power consumption limits and continue to improve in energy efficiency. For example, a current model ENERGY STAR 3.0-compliant high-definition DVR now in use consumes less than half of the energy but provides more processing power and home-networking capabilities than the 40+ watt HD DVRs introduced 10 years ago.
  • Low-power adapters. In cable markets that have converted to all digital systems, operators are providing customers with small digital transport adapters (DTAs) that use less than four watts.
  • New technologies. Cable operators continue to create new services that decrease the home’s overall energy profile such as: digital-only tuners; home networking and whole-home DVR; network- and cloud-based delivery that allows the processing and storage power of the network to be shared across many consumers; and video services delivered via Internet Protocol (IP) directly to tablets and gaming stations without the need for a set-top box.

In addition, cable operators providing service to approximately 85 percent of U.S. cable customers have committed to ensure that by the end of 2013 at least 90 percent of all new set-top boxes they purchase and deploy will be ENERGY STAR 3.0 devices.

The CableLabs findings about power consumption savings from “light sleep” are based on measurements of three commonly used brands of digital set-top boxes from prominent cable industry suppliers, each running electronic program guide (EPG) software that represents the majority of U.S. cable-EPG deployments and tested on cable headends maintained at CableLabs. CableLabs - Energy Lab is continuing its tests with additional variations of digital set-top boxes and software offerings later this year.

“The CableLabs - Energy Lab and related initiatives reflect our member companies’ determination to play a leading role within the telecommunications industry in energy conservation and stewardship,” said Paul Liao, President and Chief Executive Officer of CableLabs. “Our findings around light sleep power consumption represent the product of a significant technology assessment effort by CableLabs, and reflect the ongoing innovations of the community of cable industry manufacturers, all of which will benefit cable companies and their customers alike.”

About the Energy Lab
CableLabs - Energy Lab is a new facility within the cable industry’s research and development consortium that concentrates on improving energy efficiency. Among its objectives are to:

  • Design and maintain a consistent and accurate energy tracking program for measuring and reporting energy consumption and efficiency improvements of new set-top boxes.
  • Serve as a testing and development facility for designers of energy efficient software and hardware.
  • Create energy efficiency specifications for semiconductor and hardware suppliers and the network operations systems that support cable devices.
  • Assist in developing applications and products that will help consumers manage their overall residential energy consumption.
  • Showcase and demonstrate current and future energy savings products and power monitoring capabilities.

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