*** 2011 update coming ***
Most of the information in this FAQ hasn't been updated since 2009; I'm working on an update.
Even though this information is stickied in the Series 3 thread, CableCARDs can be used in the original Series 3, the Tivo HD and the Premieres.
Note that Premiere and Premiere XL take a single M-stream card, like the THD. Also note that CableCARD companies must now allow self-install. This is (should be) very simple and only take 5-15 minutes.
This thread is to try and list common problems with CableCARD installation and activation issues. Although many have had CableCARDs sucessfully installed in a Tivo Series 3 box or the newer Tivo HD box without issue, there are a number of common issues that prevent a successfull install. And since most cable companies won't let the customer talk to the few people that truely understand CableCARDs, it can be difficult to get a problem corrected.
Please keep this thread short - DO NOT post with specific problems here - post those in the appropriate provider thread instead.
See this thread for details: http://www.tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb...d.php?t=317989
This is the current Tivo help page on CableCARD installation and troubleshooting (as of Sept 2009). Information on this page should be considered more reliable than what is posted here:
Note that the above page references the newer Tivo HD boxes, where this thread was originally established for the original Series 3 box.
My specific experience is limited to Comcast and Motorola cards in the Denver area. However most of these questions/issues will apply to any cable company in any area.
1. Are there different types of CableCARDs?
Yes. There are either single-stream cards (SCards) or multi-stream cards (MCards).
SCards allow the decryption of a single stream (e.g. support for a single tuner). These have been available for a while and are still more common in the field.
MCards allow the decryption of multiple streams concurrently (e.g. support for dual tuners in the Series 3 Tivo HD boxes). You can use MCards in an original Series 3 box, but they will only function as SCards (e.g. you will need two MCards in an S3 to get dual tuner support, where you only need one MCard in a THD box).
Many CSRs (and some installers) don't know the difference between an SCard and and MCard. If possible, ask specifically for MCards, especially if you have a Tivo HD box. The good news is that MOST new card available now SHOULD be MCards.
2. Do I need one CableCARD or two?
Each of the Series 3 boxes supports recording two digital cable channels at once.
The newer Tivo HD box currently supports MCards, so you will need one MCard or two SCards for full functionality..
Currently, the software in the original Series 3 box does not support the multistream capabilities of the MCard (and this is unlikely to ever change), so you will need two CableCARDs, either SCard or MCard, to have full support.
Either type of Series 3 model Tivo will function with only one SCard, but may operate in single tuner mode.
3. Where do I get the CableCARDs?
CableCARDs are not available at retail and must be obtained from your cable company. Some areas allow customers to pick up and install their own cards, but most still require a truck roll for installation.
4. My cable company says that an installer must come to my house to install the CableCARDs. Is this true?
No, but it is fairly typical policy. Tivo provides very easy to follow instructions on how to install CableCARDs in the box. Anyone who can follow simple directions should be able to install CableCARD(s) in a few minutes. The hard part is finding someone at the cable company that knows how to properly pair and validate the card(s).
For the CableCARDs, all the installer is going to do is record some numbers off the cards themselves and some from the Tivo CableCARD configuration screens and call them into dispatch where the numbers will be entered into a computer. Despite what any CSR will tell you, there is nothing specific to a CableCARD install that an installer can do that a customer shouldn't be able to.
The only advantage to having an installer come to your house is to ensure that you have a proper cable signal feeding the Tivo.
5. My cable company says they do not support Tivo - what do I do?
Politely remind the cable rep that they are REQUIRED by the FCC and CableLabs to support the use of CableCARDs in ANY device on the approved list, including Tivo. The cable company does not have to "support" Tivo, but they must either allow you to install CableCARDs in the Tivo and activate/authorize them or do it themselves.
Both the original Series 3 and the newer Tivo HD are on the CableLabs supported device list
- the Series 3 Tivo (Model TCD648250B) and Tivo HD (Model TCD652160) boxes are classified by CableLabs as set top boxes.
If your cable company is very small, they may be exempted by the FCC from having to provide CableCARDs, but this is the exception - all of the major MSOs must provide you CableCARDs at a nominal charge for use in your Tivo.
6. My cable company still says they do not support Tivo - now what?
If you still have difficulty, call the special hotline Tivo has established for CableCARD installation issues: (866) 986-8486
7. What do cable companies charge for CableCARDs?
This will vary with the provider, but generally if there is a charge it is $1.50 to $4.95 per card per month. In most cases, if you are being assessed a separate HDTV charge, you are not being charged correctly. You should have no more than one equipment rental charge per outlet - EITHER a cable company provided converter box or DVR OR CableCARD(s) - NOT BOTH.
Comcast help page regarding CableCARD fees
8. What can I do before the installer arrives?
Have the CableCARD installation sheet that came in the Tivo carton ready for your installer. They will almost certainly insist that they don't need it, but most will.
Read this FAQ and the appropriate Tivo support page for CableCARD installation: (These also show the relevant Tivo screens).
You should also run guided setup to make sure you have the current level of Tivo software loaded. Just select the option that says "I'll install CableCards later" (I don't recollect the actual text) during the setup process and select the digital line up option.
9. What should I do when the installer arrives?
Hand the CableCARD installation instructions to the installer.
MAKE SURE THEY ONLY DO ONE CARD AT A TIME. Most will insist it is OK just to put both cards in (if using SCards) and do both at once. Ask them if they want to be in your house a few minutes or a few hours.
(This is a very strong suggestion and Tivo's recommended procedure, not an absolute. If you have an installer than knows what they are doing and the tech on the phone gets the numbers right, there is no reason two cards can't be initialized/validated at the same time.
10. What information does the cable company need to activate a CableCARD?
They will need either the physical serial number of the card (printed on the card itself) or the CableCARD id or the unit address of the card (found on the CableCARD Pairing screen on the Tivo). In my area, Comcast only needs the physical serial number.
They will also need the Host ID and Data value (found in the pairing screen on the Tivo).
If they do not have these values properly input into their system, your cards will not be properly set up, no matter what channels you see or what anyone tells you!
11. I have my CableCARD(s) installed, but some of the channels I'm supposed to get are grey. Why?
Three likely reasons:
1) Your cable company doesn't have the proper programming tier authorized on your account.
This is not a CableCARD specific issue, but an accounting or programming authorization issue, and once corrected, the proper programming shows up through any CableCARD or digital converter you have on your account.
2) Your CableCARD is not properly paired.
In order for your cards to function properly, they must be associated or "paired" with your account. This is why the information described in question 5 is necessary. If a card is properly paired, it will work in only the host (or in the case of a Tivo, a specific CableCARD slot) and cannot be moved to another device (or slot) without having to be paired again.
To see if a card is properly paired:
For a Motorola SCard
You will see "SUBSCRIBED" in the authorization field on the Conditional Access screen from the CableCARD Menu for the card in question.
For an SA card
You will see "CP Auth Received" and "Powerkey Status: Ready"
(If they are not authorized, you get "CP Auth NOT Received" and "Powerkey Status: Waiting").
You can see the values indicated and still not see all your channels - see the next sub topic on validation. If this is the case, you card is paired and authorized, but may not see the copy protected channels
3) Your CableCARD is not properly validated.
For cable companies that use copy protection flags on some channels, there is another step called validation.
When you see some channels, but not all (usually premiums like HBO or Showtime), the likely problem is that even though the CableCARDs may have had the proper pairing information entered (and are therefor authorized for your account), they
haven't been validated. This is not a problem until you start using copy protection (i.e. a non-zero CCI value on a channel). If you don't use copy protection, as long as the cards remain authorized, they can be moved between hosts and they'll still continue to decrypt anything they're authorized for.
However, with copy protected channels (non-zero CCI value), the card needs to get an additional message from the headend explicitly validating the host/CableCARD pairing information. The card will only decrypt copy protected channels after it receives this message. If you tune a copy protected channel using an unvalidated card you may see a few seconds of video before the card stops decrypting and pops up the MMI screen.
If you move cards (either put a card into a different slot, or put a different card into the same slot), that breaks the pairing validation. In the case of Motorola, breaking this also causes the card to regenerate a new data field -which then needs to be updated in the headend.
12. How do I tell if my CableCARDs are properly validated?
For a Motorola SCard:
Check the Motorola CableCARD Host Validation value on the Conditional Access screen. It should say "Valid" followed by a 2 digit number. If it says "Unknown", the card may be paired, but is not validated.
For a Motorola MCard:
Check the Motorola CableCARD Host Validation value on the Conditional Access screen. The field is "Val ?" If the card is validated, the field will start with a "V" (e.g. V 0x00). If not, there will be no "V" (e.g. 0x00)
(If someone knows the proper status for cards from other manufacturers, please PM me)
13. Do CableCARDs work with FIOS?
14. There was an error message during the installation of the CableCARDs. Now what?
Depends on the error message. If you received a 161-4 error code, this can be safely ignored (it is actually a "good" error).
15. How do I determine the status of my CableCARD(s)?
See the Tivo troubleshooting link above.
16. How do I tell if I have a good quality cable signal for my Tivo?
(To be added)
17. Where can I find more information on troubleshooting CableCARD issues?
Tivo has a terrific page in their support section, with plenty of pictures and troubleshooting tips: