Consumers in the US and Canada are so fed up with their cable companies that some are deciding to cut ALL the cords, including cable TV, home phone, and internet.
Many smart cord cutters replace high speed internet packages from cable and satellite providers with alternative ISPs, but competitive options aren’t available in all locations. This had led some to forgo home internet altogether (gasp!), or rely instead on cellular data plans for all internet access.
While cutting the cord on all of your telecom services will result in significant savings, it will also limit your choices when it comes to watching the TV shows you want.
This is why one of our most frequently asked questions is:
“Do I need internet to watch and record live local TV with a Tablo Over-the-Air DVR?”
Yes. You definitely DO need internet access to use network-connected Tablo Over-the-Air DVRs. Like many modern gadgets, most Tablo DVRs are network-connected devices, designed to have consistent high-speed internet access and will not function optimally without it.
TV-connected Tablo DVRs however, are less reliant on internet access for basic viewing of live and recorded TV but still require regular internet access to perform as expected.
Why Tablo OTA DVRs Need Internet Access
While the TV programming on your Tablo comes in via Over-the-Air signals through an antenna instead of the internet, and network-connected Tablo DVRs primarily rely on your home’s internal WiFi network to distribute those TV signals to your devices, it must connect to the external internet regularly for several reasons:
1. To Set the Time
Each time your Tablo OTA DVR turns on, it will check for something called the Network Time Protocol (NTP) which tells the system what year, date, and time it is in your location. Your home router will pass this info on from your ISP, which identifies your location based on your IP address.
Without the correct time, your Tablo will either think it’s been put into a time warp back to 1970, or if it gets the right date but the wrong time, schedule recordings or show a live TV grid for the incorrect time slot.
TV-connected Tablo DVRs do fetch time from NTP upon setup, and check on it regularly to keep the time accurate, but also have an internal clock as backup.
2. To Download TV Guide Data
Every night, your Tablo will ‘phone home’ to the Tablo HQ server which will verify your subscription status. Tablo devices without an active subscription will download the guide data for the next 24 hours. Tablo devices with an active subscription will download any data (including scheduling updates) required to maintain accurate information over the next 14 days.
The data required to download Tablo's TV guide is minimal - about 10-11 MB of data per month per channel.
(Please note that Tablo Guide Data Subscriptions are optional.)
3. To Download Periodic Firmware Updates
When your Tablo OTA DVR is manufactured, it comes pre-loaded with operating software called ‘firmware’. That being said, new firmware updates are issued on a regular basis to boost performance, add features, and correct any problems that may arise. Without the internet, your Tablo won’t receive the notification that an update is available, and won’t be able to download it from our servers.
The data required to download Tablo firmware updates is also minimal - on average approximately 24 MB per update.
4. To Allow Your Devices to Discover Your Tablo OTA DVR
Network-Connected Tablo DVRs don't connect directly to your TV. Instead they send Over-the-Air signals from your antenna over WiFi or Ethernet to all the devices connected to your home network. In order for your devices to ‘find’ your Tablo so it can stream video, it uses network discovery protocols.
TV-connected Tablo DVRs also use these protocols for streaming to secondary televisions.
Most Tablo apps have two ways to ‘find’ the Tablo on your network. First they will attempt to locate your Tablo by touching base with the home server at Tablo HQ. If that fails because the external internet is down, the app will fall back to its last known location on your home network.
However, the Tablo web app (at my.tablotv.com), and Tablo apps for LG Web OS, Samsung TIZEN, and Xbox One do not have secondary fallback discovery, so will not be able to locate your Tablo DVR if the internet is down or unavailable.
TV-connected Tablo DVRs do NOT need local network access or consistent external internet access to play back live TV or recordings on your main television.
5. To Enable Out-of-Home Streaming from Your Tablo OTA DVR
If you have an active subscription, you can access your network-connected Tablo OTA DVR at home from anywhere in the world to stream live Over-the-Air TV and watch or set recordings. To do this, your Tablo sends video via your home’s external internet connection. Without internet, this feature is not available.
*** UPDATE - All Tablo DVRs will also use between 100-200 MB/hour of recording in external internet bandwidth if you have the Automatic Commercial Skip feature enabled. ***
Why Cellular Data and Mobile Hotspots Are Not Recommended
Some cord cutters have ditched traditional broadband internet connections in favor of using mobile hotspots with a cellular data plan. While hotspots can allow you to surf the internet with relative ease, they lack the features of standard home WiFi routers.
These feature gaps can hinder communication between connected devices and prevent you from adjusting settings and protocols that enable features like Tablo Connect on network-connected Tablo DVRs.
If you are stuck with spotty rural internet or cellular data, and are happy to limit viewing of Over-the-Air TV to your main television, consider choosing a TV-connected Tablo DVR. These types of DVRs can offer basic functionality on your main television for up to two weeks without internet access as long as you have a TV Guide Data Service subscription.
Long story short, your Tablo OTA DVR is designed for cord cutting homes with WiFi-enabled routers and a consistent, high speed connection to the internet. If you don’t have internet access, or use cellular data and mobile hotspots, Tablo is not recommended for you.
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