There’s been no shortage of rumours about a satellite dish-free Sky box coming soon. Express.co.uk exclusively revealed that secretive testing was already underway last month, followed by new details about the capabilities of the redesigned box. And now, we have our first look at the new streaming set-top box – and an official name.
The all-new hardware has been revealed by Comcast, the US media company that owns Sky. Dubbed XiOne, the coaster-shaped streaming gadget is designed to bring the fully-featured Sky Q experience to customers across Europe without the need for a satellite dish on the outside of your house. Meanwhile, in the United States, Comcast plans to use the same hardware to offer Xfinity Flex to new customers.
Comcast has confirmed that its all-new XiOne set-top box supports the latest Wi-Fi 6 standards for speedy streaming, 4K Ultra HD picture quality with HDR and Dolby Vision. There’s also Dolby Atmos support, which means the XiOne can truly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Sky Q box. XiOne also arrives with “a new simpler and smaller voice remote designed with streamers in mind,” the US company reveals.
XiOne is already available to Sky Q customers in Italy and Germany under the “Sky IP” brand name, Comcast has confirmed. Interestingly, now that we’ve seen the complete list of features packed into this diddy streaming box, it’s clear that the satellite dish-less subscription plans currently available in Italy and Germany aren’t taking full advantage of the functionality built into the XiOne hardware. For example, Sky IP customers in Germany can’t watch in Ultra HD… despite the box supporting Ultra HD streaming with HDR and Dolby Vision. It remains unclear whether a future XiOne launch in the UK would support all of these features.
Speaking about the all-new hardware, President of Technology for Comcast Charlie Herrin said: “When Sky joined the Comcast family, we brought together our engineers to share insights, roadmaps, talent, and technology to support our global customers. The launch of our new XiOne device is a direct result of these efforts and underscores how our collaborative development approach can bring new and innovative streaming products to markets faster and more efficiently.”
When it comes to a UK launch, the US media company has remained tight-lipped about the exact details. “Comcast plans to make the device available across more channels and to its Xfinity X1 customers and syndication partners in the future,” it hints.
Sky has already confirmed plans to hold a media event in early October, which it has teased with the tagline “Something magical is coming”. It’s unclear whether new hardware will be announced at the event, but it’s possible we’ll see the XiOne set-top box adapted to bring UK viewers the chance to enjoy the complete Sky Q experience without the need for a satellite dish on your roof.
The idea of ditching the requirement of a satellite dish is not a new idea. In fact, during the initial reveal of Sky Q back in 2017, then-CEO Jeremy Darroch said that streaming the full Sky experience over a fibre broadband connection would enable over six million households across Europe, including two million in the UK alone, who don’t own – or don’t want to own – a satellite dish to access the critically-acclaimed service.
However, in the four years since the launch event, we haven’t heard a thing about the satellite-free version of Sky Q.
The arrival of the new XiOne and confirmation that Comcast plans to make the hardware a “global wireless streaming device” for its Xfinity and Sky brands, it seems like the promise of ditching the dish has never been closer. For those with sluggish broadband speeds at home, it’s possible that Sky Q will still be available via a satellite dish.
Sources speaking to Express.co.uk confirmed that, in beta testing, there were still some features available on the existing Sky Q box that weren’t possible with the new broadband-powered box – such as loading a small preview of what’s happening on another channel while continuing to watch live television.
Express.co.uk will be in the audience during Sky’s feverishly-anticipated October 7 event. Stay tuned to find out whether the XiOne makes an appearance.
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