So Degrading

Are cable MSOs cheating HDTV customers?

Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief

June 23, 2006

1 Min Read
So Degrading

6:00 PM -- HDTV providers may have a quality problem.

Several cable equipment guys helped fuel a rumor I've been hearing for a while at Cable-Tec Expo. The rumor is this: To save network bandwidth, cable providers will slightly degrade the signal for most HDTV channels they serve to customers.

"All the operators do it," says one source. "But they hit some channels worse than others."

This came up as I was attempting to find out how much bandwidth a full resolution HD stream in MPEG-4 takes up these days. The answers were all around the 8 -Mbit/s mark, but each vendor I asked -- and some that I didn't -- piped up to say that cable MSOs will probably get closer to 6 Mbit/s because they slightly degrade the HDTV streams to save bandwidth.

Most equipment vendors were convinced the RBOCs will do the same thing because, on fiber to the curb networks, bandwidth is even more scarce.

That's a bummer if you're a cable customer paying high dollar for a premium service or an RBOC customer kicking the tires of Telco TV. It's also frustrating because the folks who are buying HDTV at this early stage are more likely the ones who spend the most money per month and would most likely know the difference between a good and a bad HD service. Why would cable risk ticking them off?

If this HD-degradation is as widespread as rumored, it's good for satellite vendors, though. If you've only got one part of voice/video/bandwidth race, then you may as well clean up in the quality department.

— Phil Harvey, High Def Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Phil Harvey

Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Phil Harvey has been a Light Reading writer and editor for more than 18 years combined. He began his second tour as the site's chief editor in April 2020.

His interest in speed and scale means he often covers optical networking and the foundational technologies powering the modern Internet.

Harvey covered networking, Internet infrastructure and dot-com mania in the late 90s for Silicon Valley magazines like UPSIDE and Red Herring before joining Light Reading (for the first time) in late 2000.

After moving to the Republic of Texas, Harvey spent eight years as a contributing tech writer for D CEO magazine, producing columns about tech advances in everything from supercomputing to cellphone recycling.

Harvey is an avid photographer and camera collector – if you accept that compulsive shopping and "collecting" are the same.

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