Network-connected Tablo DVRs are 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 Internet Access is Necessary
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 Wi-Fi network to distribute those TV signals to your devices. The Tablo must connect to the external internet regularly for several reasons:
1. To Set the Time (4th Generation and TV-Connected Tablo DVRs only)
Without the correct time, your Tablo will get the right date but the wrong time, and schedule recordings or show a live TV grid for the incorrect time slot.
Each time your 4th generation or network-connected Tablo 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 information on from your ISP, which identifies your location based on your IP address.
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 a backup.
2. To Download TV Guide Data
Every night, your Tablo will check in to the Tablo HQ server which will update your TV guide data, and for legacy Tablo models, verify your subscription status.
Legacy Tablo devices without an active subscription will download the guide data for the next 24 hours. 4th generation Tablo devices and legacy 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.
NOTE - Tablo Guide Data Subscriptions are optional for legacy Tablo devices and not required in any way for 4th generation Tablo devices.
3. To Download Periodic Firmware Updates
When Tablo OTA DVRs are manufactured, they come pre-loaded with an operating software called ‘firmware’. 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
4th generation and Network-Connected Tablo DVRs don't connect directly to your TV. Instead, they send Over-the-Air signals from your antenna over Wi-Fi 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.
4th generation Tablo devices using the latest Tablo apps must have an active internet connection to discover and control the Tablo device.
Most legacy Tablo apps have two ways to ‘find’ the Tablo on your network. First, they will attempt to locate your Tablo by checking in with the 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, legacy apps including 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 (Network-Connected Tablo DVRs only)
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. This feature is not available without internet.
6. To deliver free streaming channels (4th generation Tablo models only)
4th generation Tablo models include the ability to watch and record a selection of free streaming channels. Content for these live streaming channels is delivered over the internet instead of your antenna like over-the-air TV channels. This obviously requires internet access.
Why Cellular Data and Mobile Hotspots Are Not Recommended
While hotspots can allow you to connect to the internet with relative ease, they lack the features of standard home Wi-Fi routers.
If you live in a rural location where the internet can be spotty or can only connect through cellular data, and are happy to limit viewing of Over-the-Air TV to your main television, we would recommend a TV-connected Tablo DVR. These types of DVRs provide 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.
To sum up, Tablo OTA DVRs are designed for homes with Wi-Fi-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.