How to get Windows Media Center receiving premium HD cable content without CableCARD

I just read an interesting article on Hometoys.com about how to get Premium HD cable content in to Media Center without using CableCARD. The solution uses an undocumented feature of Motorola Set Top Boxes (specifically the QIP6200-2 in this case) to get the content.

The RF output connection (the ‘F’ connector labeled RF out) sends out “clear QAM” (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) in addition to standard NTSC signals. QAM is the same modulation technique used by the cable companies for transmitting multiple streams of high definition video through their cable infrastructures. Most people connect the RF connector from their Set Top Box to a NTSC tuner tuned to Channel 3 or 4 (usually a VCR). However, NTSC limits the resolution to 520 interlaced lines while high definition needs to go up to 720p or 1080i.

We simply put an off-the-shelf AVerMedia AverTV Combo PCIe MCE tuner card into a Windows Vista-based PC with Windows Media Center and let Windows Update load the appropriate drivers. This tuner card supports QAM connectivity in addition to NTSC. It also supports Over The Air (OTA) ATSC, but we did not use it for this installation. We plugged in the standard USB Microsoft eHome IR Receiver as we normally would and attached the IR blaster to the Set Top Box as we would using the lousy-looking standard definition S-Video solution provided by Microsoft.

We initially assumed that Windows Media Center would use the NTSC tuner capability and require us to use Channel 3 or 4 to match the NTSC output from the Set Top Box, but much to our surprise, the standard TV setup procedure found the QAM signal and used it for the TV input without requiring any other setup. It then asked us if we had a Set Top Box, which we configured the same way we normally do. Voila! We were receiving “in the clear” high definition video unencrypted by the Set Top Box. We can record it, copy it to other machines, and stream it to any number of devices we want.

Looks an interesting solution, read the rest of the article HERE

  • snoby

    Very interesting post, however I would question the gentlemen and ask him which HD digital signals he is obtaining out of the box unencrypted. I say this because Cable operators (I think by law) are required to send out the major broadcasters signals unencrypted. For example, if I can use my OTA to pick up unencrypted HD from NBC and Comcast carries the same exact signal on there network, they aren’t allowed to encrypt it. (They actually pick it up off the air too and just put it on to their local feed). This only applies to channels that are broadcast over the air.
    So the fact that Mot is transmitting this stuff out there RF port is indeed very neat, however if he is getting “DiscoveryHD” channel on the RF port, than this is a bug that is going to get fixed pretty quickly.

  • Anonymous

    I got my hopes up on this un-likely solution as well. I have Verizon FIOS with same STB. I looked at the Avermedia card and saw 2 inputs (1 analog and 1 digital) typical of hybrid cards. If he says he runs the RF into the NTSC, first problem is that tuner cell won’t interpret digital. All QAM is done through ATSC input just like in my Hauppauge HVR-1600. I tried it anyway. NTSC side picked up analog as would be expected from the box. It was all 480i analog. Even the HD channels. I tried it on my ATSC/QAM side. Picked up nothing. I did a 2nd test with a small LCD tv with an NTSC/ATSC/QAM tuner all on one coax in and same result. No QAM. Verizon broadcasts clear QAM but once hits QIP6200-2, RF out is analog only. Myth Busters case closed.