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Comcast HD-DTAs Reach the FCC

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is nearing its goal of deploying high-definition versions of simple and inexpensive Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) devices before the end of the year as an Xfinity-branded model made by Motorola Mobility LLC has passed through the hallowed halls of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

The pint-sized device, dubbed the HD-DTA 100u and spotted Tuesday by Wireless Goodness, includes coax and HDMI-out ports as well as a remote control (here's the user's manual). The "u" in the model name means it's universal in the sense that it can run on cable networks based on Motorola- or Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) digital video security systems. Early standard-definition-only DTAs made by Moto, Pace plc and Technicolor (Euronext Paris: TCH; NYSE: TCH) could only run on Motorola-based networks. (See DTAs Getting Smaller, Cheaper & 'Universal'.)

Comcast declined to comment on its deployment plans for the device, which are expected to cost $50 per unit or less as production volumes ramp up. Comcast told CED in August that it was looking to get HD-DTA field trials underway in 2011 and that some customers might start to get them before the end of the year.

Why this matters
Having a device get through the FCC puts Comcast one step closer to deploying a new type of DTA that's capable of rendering HD signals and is much less expensive that the current line of two-way, HD-capable digital cable boxes. HD-DTAs are inherently one-way (downstream-only), meaning they can't send signals up the plant to initiate video-on-demand streams, but IP-connected devices like the iPad theoretically could "force-tune" a DTA to get around that hurdle. (See Comcast: DTAs Can Be 'Force-Tuned' .)

Comcast has already deployed millions of SD-DTAs in support of its "Project Cavalry" initiative, which was put into place to help Comcast reclaim analog spectrum and reapply it toward its growing linear lineup of HDTV channels. (See Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan .)

Getting to this point is significant in that it required a special waiver from the FCC to allow cable operators to deploy HD-DTAs with embedded security, a movement that was originally championed by Tier 2 MSO Cable One Inc. .

For more
Read more about HD-DTAs and their path through the FCC meat grinder.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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