Internet access is required to use both network-connected Tablo DVRs and TV-connected Tablo DVRs.
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 WiFi 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 (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 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 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.
NOTE - Tablo Guide Data Subscriptions are optional.
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
Network-Connected Tablo DVRs don't connect directly to your TV. Instead, they send Over-the-Air signals from your antenna over the network to all the devices connected to your home network (WiFi or Ethernet). 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 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, 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.
NOTE - 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
While hotspots can allow you to connect to 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 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.