& cplSiteName &

Small Cablecos Weigh Digital Options

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
7/28/2009
50%
50%

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- The Independent Show -- The top 10 U.S. MSOs might make up the bulk of the customer base, but there are still plenty of Tier 2 and Tier 3 operators scattered about, and many of them are still trying to develop digital video transition strategies that don't break the bank.

Many of these operators don't have much bandwidth to play with. A good portion of them are still operating plant with just 550 MHz of capacity, meaning there's not much headroom left for high-definition television and more advanced Docsis 3.0 cable modem services -- items that could help them compete with the video offerings of satellite TV service operators and incumbent telcos.

Instead of taking on expensive upgrades, many smaller operators are considering strategies to reclaim analog spectrum so they can multiplex and squeeze additional services into the more efficient digitized environment.

Naturally, several suppliers have tailored services for the cause. Based on discussions here at the conference and recent announcements, here's a brief update on some of that activity:

  • Leading the pack is HITS Quantum SD, a service from the Comcast Media Center (CMC) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) that allows operators in smaller markets to do digital-domain simulcasts of the channels in their analog lineups. MSOs can then gradually strip away some of those analog channels as digital set-tops get more fully deployed to customers. That leaves more spectrum for services like hi-def and perhaps even video-on-demand (VoD).

    At last check, more than 260 cable systems are taking this route with Moto and the CMC. Uptake on that service started slowly but has accelerated through this year, "which is something we're pretty proud of, given the state of the economy," says CMC chief operating officer Gary Traver, noting that most customers are approaching this with gradual digital migrations rather than hard cutovers. (See MSOs Tap Comcast Unit for Analog Reclaim.)

    The CMC is getting ready to complement the offering with a Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA), the one-way digital-to-analog channel zapper Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is using to fuel its own all-digital strategy. "We're not into the [DTA] trials yet, but we will be there shortly," Traver says. Moto-made DTAs will play a role, but the CMC intends to work with multiple suppliers, he adds. (See Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan .)

    The CMC is also giving Tier 2 and 3 MSOs the option to add VoD via a partnership with Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) (the combined offer is branded as "VoD in a Box"), and interactive applications via a centralized offering called HITS AxIS. The latter is starting off with Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF), an interactive platform that can address cable's entire universe of digital boxes. More advanced tru2way applications will come later. (See Comcast Media Center Buffs Up for EBIF , Comcast, itaas Engage on EBIF , and More MSOs Test 'HITS AxIS'.)

    Traver acknowledges that VoD in a Box is "making small progress," primarily due to the bad economy and the lack of access to capital markets for some operators. "But it's a compelling business case to put VoD in," he says. (See Phonoscope Picks VOD In a Box.)

  • Evolution Broadband LLC also says it's making progress using a digital video system powered in part by by DTAs outfitted with the Conax AS conditional access system.

    Brent Smith, president of Evolution's digital division, says the company is discussing deployment options with as many as 15 operators as they prepare their budgets for next year. Some deployment deals could pop this fall, but "a lot will land in 2010," Smith predicts.

    Evolution, which recently obtained a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) waiver for its standard-definition DTAs, has developed an MPEG-4-capable hi-def version that, according to Smith, is six weeks away from production. Evolution has drafted a waiver request for the HD-DTA, which is expected to cost less than $100 per unit, even with the encryption element baked in. (See FCC Believes in Evolution-ary DTAs and Evolution Guns for HD Box Waiver .)

    "The HD/MPEG-4 box is really phase 2 of our whole D-to-A strategy," he says.

    Cable One Inc. has already obtained a condition-filled waiver to use HD-DTAs in one small system in Tennesee. Evolution's the obvious candidate for that business, but Smith would only say that his firm is in discussions with the operator. (See Cable ONE Snares HD Set-Top Waiver .)

  • R.L. Drake LLC , meanwhile, is aiding digital migrations with a system called "Digital Freedom" that uses a downloadable conditional access system from the Beyond Broadband Technology LLC (BBT) cable consortium that adheres to the FCC's ban on integrated security set-top boxes. (See Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven'.)

    A few operators have signed up for field trials involving a mainstream HD box that can decode MPEG-4. (See Drake Downloads Some Deals .)

    BBT and Drake say they expect to add a DVR box and a "low-cost, all-digital" set-top to the mix. Two new set-top suppliers (still unnamed) have joined the group to help get those products off the ground, according to Tony Swain, the chief operating officer of BBT, and president and CEO of Tele-Media Broadband (which is one of the MSOs backing the BBT project).

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

    (0)  | 
    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
  • Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
    Educational Resources
    sponsor supplied content
    Educational Resources Archive
    From The Founder
    Cisco's Conrad Clemson, recently promoted to head up the company's Service Provider Apps & Platforms developments, talks to Light Reading's Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about how he's bringing cloud video, mobile and virtualization together to empower network operators.
    Flash Poll
    Live Streaming Video
    Charting the CSP's Future
    Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Turkcell Challenges Turkey's Current TV Market

    3|29|17   |     |   (0) comments


    Baris Zavaroglu, TV and rntertainment business director of Turkcell, explains Turkcell's strategy in elevating the small and uncertain TV market in Turkey.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Altibox’s Infrastructure Synergy Strategy Reduces Deployment Costs

    3|29|17   |     |   (0) comments


    Thomas Skjelbred, CEO of Altibox, on how to improve efficiency and reduce deployment coast through infrastructure synergy in Norway.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Ismail Butun on the Changing Role of Turkcell

    3|29|17   |     |   (0) comments


    Ismail Butun, chief marketing officer of Turkcell, explains the importance of video and mobile services for the future of the company.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    IDC's Emir Halilovic on Trends of Cloudification

    3|29|17   |     |   (0) comments


    Emir Halilovic of IDC CEMA discusses the future and direction of cloudification. Also, the all-cloud approach taken by Huawei and others in the industry.
    LRTV Custom TV
    How Intel Is Powering the 5G Era

    3|29|17   |     |   (0) comments


    Light Reading tours a series of 5G "super demos" so see how Intel envisions the 5G-connected future. We take a look at a prototype connected BMW, a light pole with environmental sensors that provides 5G wireless to a smart home and a fully untethered virtual reality experience.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Source Photonics CEO Doug Wright Talks About the Future of Source Photonics

    3|29|17   |     |   (0) comments


    Source Photonics' CEO, Doug Wright, talks to Light Reading about how the company is continuously investing in its operations to meet not only its customers' current technology demands but also to deliver their next-generation technology needs.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Live Demo: DevOps in Service Chains & 5G Network Slices PoC

    3|29|17   |     |   (0) comments


    Executives from PoC collaborating companies – Patrick Waldemar, VP and Head of Technology at Telenor Research, John Healy, VP of the Datacenter Network Solutions Group at Intel, Vincent Spinelli, SVP of Global Sales and Marketing at RIFT.io, Mats Eriksson, CEO and co-founder of Arctos Labs, and Mats Nordlund, CEO and co-founder of Netrounds – review ...
    LRTV Documentaries
    The Year of Fat & Skinny Bundles

    3|29|17   |   21:06   |   (0) comments


    In this fireside chat, Roku's Andrew Ferrone predicts that 2017 will be the year of multichannel OTT video bundles and spells out other trends in the OTT and pay-TV markets.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    BBWF 2016: Orange Poland's Next-Gen Central Office

    3|28|17   |     |   (0) comments


    Introduction to Orange Poland's legacy next-generation central office solution.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Viavi at OFC 2017

    3|28|17   |   4:15   |   (0) comments


    Light Reading's Editor-in-Chief Craig Matsumoto reports from the Viavi booth at OFC and gets an update on the 400G testing market from Tom Fawcett, VP and GM of LAB & Production. At this year's event, Viavi won three awards from Lightwave magazine and showcased an interoperability demo with Ethernet Alliance and Finisar.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Connecting the Entire Home With DOCSIS 3.1

    3|28|17   |   3:58:   |   (0) comments


    Hitron Technologies had the first cable modem certified for DOCSIS 3.1 and already has over 120,000 units in the field. Greg Fisher, CTO of Hitron, provides an update on his company's rollout of new gateways and why he thinks DOCSIS 3.1 will continue to drive value for operators into 2017 and beyond.
    LRTV Interviews
    Amazon Prime's Hand of God Creator on Producing for OTT

    3|28|17   |     |   (1) comment


    Ben Watkins is the creator, writer and producer of Hand of God, a series on Amazon Prime. At Light Reading's Cable Next-Gen conference in Denver, he explained the advantages of producing for an OTT platform versus traditional TV.
    Upcoming Live Events
    May 15-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
    May 15, 2017, Austin Convention Center - Austin, TX
    June 6, 2017, The Joule Hotel, Dallas, TX
    All Upcoming Live Events
    Infographics
    With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
    Hot Topics
    FTTH No Slam Dunk for Cable
    Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 3/23/2017
    Unlocking China's $194B Telecom Market
    Robert Clark, 3/27/2017
    Ericsson Tightens Focus, Warns of $1.7B Q1 Hit
    Iain Morris, News Editor, 3/28/2017
    WiCipedia: Supergirls, No More Excuses & Media Monitoring
    Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, 3/24/2017
    Like Us on Facebook
    Twitter Feed
    BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
    TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
    At MWC 2017, Qualcomm's CTO Matt Grob talks to Light Reading's CEO and Founder Steve Saunders about the progress being made in the development of the technologies and standards that will underpin 5G.
    Animals with Phones
    Working From Home Doesn't Work for Everyone Click Here
    You shouldn't nap on your keyboard, for instance.
    Live Digital Audio

    Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.