One of the gadgets (and services) that comes with TM’s Unifi fibre-optic broadband is the video/TV streaming application. This is done via a set-top box, similar in concept to the Astro satellite decoder. The technology inside and the delivery path is of course fundamentally different.
The terrestrial channels are TV1, TV2, TV3, NTV7, 8TV and TV9. Additional free cable channels include Bernama TV, Hikmah, Channel NewsAsia, Luxe.TV HD, Euronews, DW-TV Asia, Australia Network, Bloomberg TV and The Travel Channel.
HyppTV is available to residential users but not for Unifi Biz installation at commercial or business premises. I’m guessing it is due to licensing restrictions imposed by content providers. HyppTV is naturally happy to gloat about the fact that its reception is not susceptible to rain and other atmospheric conditions.
What’s interesting about IPTV is that it incorporates ‘time-shift’ viewing. Most of the programs can be moved back by two hours with variable speed rewind/forward and pause function. Users can also purchase titles via VOD (Video-On-Demand) and subscribe to premium channels with a few clicks on the remote control.
The current Unifi set-up involves routing the fibre-optic cable from the pole to a Broadband Termination Unit (Huawei Echolife HG 850) inside the house. A LAN cable connects it to the supplied VLAN-capable wireless router (D-Link DIR 615). The 3rd piece of equipment, the set-top box (Huawei EC2108E) streams video content to a television set or monitor.
Contrary to some reports, the wireless N router performed sufficiently well with regard to Internet access. I am able to receive the signals on different floors with download speeds very close to a direct cable connection. If you are getting weak signals at certain spots, a wi-fi extender may help.
The present promo package also comes with a free Motorola DECT cordless phone which I won’t be using. I already have a Siemens pair in operation and so it was just a matter of plugging out the old copper wire and plugging it into the voice port of the Huawei. Fax is not supported, though.
Positioning the set-top box can be tricky as it needs to be near the television. Connection is via the supplied HDMI cable. If you have an older TV, there are analogue RCA, S-Video and component outputs too. Problem is the STB is tethered to the router by a network cable.
As such, the Unifi installer will usually recommend placing the set-top box, along with the BTU (Broadband Termination Unit a.k.a. Optical Network Terminal) and PG (Premise Gateway a.k.a. Router), next to the TV. This is not always practical or desirable. I wanted the channels to be streamed to a TV upstairs and didn’t want to run a long RJ 45 cable. So how?
Enter TP-Link’s AV200 Mini Powerline Twin Kit or TL-PA211KIT (RM 150 street price). It is a pair of powerline adapters or ‘homeplugs’ that use existing electrical wires to transfer data. Setting it up is not as simple as the skimpy manual suggests, though.
First you need to pair the adapters. Before that, make sure both AC outlets are on the same phase if you have 3-phase electricity wiring. Since you have only 2 minutes after triggering the first unit, it is best to test everything out within the same room or same floor first.
I was having difficulty connecting at first, only to find out that the homeplugs will not work properly when the AC is ‘filtered’ by my UPS’s AVR circuitry. I suppose the filtering removes the embedded data. Plug it directly into a wall point to bypass.
Unlike Bluetooth pairing, you do not hold down the pairing button until it blinks. Hold it for about 5 seconds and then press the button on the other unit, also for around 5 seconds. The LED lights will start blinking as both units communicate. After about 45 seconds you are good to go.
Plug the LAN cable from the sender unit into one of the wireless router’s LAN port and then test the Unifi internet connection with your laptop plugged in at the other end. If all works, swap the input cable back to the VLAN port (coloured red). Move the decoder and accompanying homeplug to the room where your TV is located.
The video streaming via the homeplugs appears excellent with no drop-frames and compression artifacts. Of course, don’t expect the HD quality to be on par with that of Blue-Ray, even when connected directly. There you have it; a cheap and practical solution to deliver high quality streaming content to any point in your house.
Placing the Set-Top Box where it belongs. Below the TV set
While we are at it, I like to remind new users to change two important settings. Connect to the Unifi wireless router via a network cable and log on to http://192.168.0.1./ Change your SSID as it is stupidly set to broadcast your user name, example ‘ah_lian@unifi’.
Also, set your router password and turn on WEP or WPA encryption for some form of security. Your wireless connection will now be disconnected and you will need to enter the key on your computer to re-establish connection.