Following in the footsteps of other major US MSOs, Bright House Networks has started converting its first big cable system cluster to all digital channels.
Bright House Networks , the sixth largest cable operator in the US with about 2.5 million subscribers, announced that it has begun upgrading its Central Florida service area to an all-digital transmission format. Plans call for video customers in the Orlando and Daytona areas to start making the switch next month as Bright House rolls out the all-digital platform throughout its sprawling service area.
With the move, Bright House will join such other large MSOs as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), and Charter Communications Inc. in upgrading its cable systems to all-digital. But it will continue to lag behind most of its peers, many of which have been converting their old analog systems to all-digital for years.
Coincidentally, the all-digital launch by Bright House comes at the same time that its "big brother" and one-time joint venture partner, TW Cable, is embroiled in a takeover battle with Charter that touches on the all-digital upgrade issue. Among other things, Charter executives fault their TWC counterparts for not moving more aggressively to convert their analog cable systems to all-digital transmission. (See Charter Goes Over TWC's Head and TW Cable Strikes Back.)
Cable technologists see all-digital upgrades as essential moves to carve out fresh spectrum for more HD channels, faster broadband speeds, and other advanced services. For instance, because digital video channels use up far less bandwidth than analog video channels, the switch to all-digital can free up room for scores of high-bandwidth HD channels.
Indeed, in a special section of its website dedicated to the all-digital move, Bright House said it will use its freed-up spectrum to introduce more than 40 new HD channels in central Florida, including the HD versions of ESPN, Discovery Channel, CNN, A&E, Golf Channel, and Animal Planet. The MSO said it will also offer more standard digital channels, such as Fox Sports 1, Travel Channel, and Telemundo.
Similar to Comcast, Mediacom Communications Corp. , Suddenlink Communications , and other MSOs, Bright House plans to rely heavily on digital transport adapters (DTAs) to carry out the central Florida upgrade. DTAs are small, simple, cheap set-top boxes that enable cable operators to convert digital signals back to analog transmission for older, analog TV sets.
Bright House will use HD DTAs from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). The MSO is offering up to two HD DTAs and two remote controls to each subscriber with analog TVs for no additional charge until next January. Additional DTAs will cost $2 per device each month.
The MSO, which has another big cable system nearby in the Tampa metro area, did not say when it plans to extend the all-digital upgrade to other areas. Besides its two big Florida systems, Bright House also has cable clusters in Alabama, California, Indiana, and Michigan.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading