Video hardware

Time Warner Cable Relights Its SDV Fire

Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) says it's rolling out switched digital video (SDV) with BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) in three major markets -- Los Angeles, New York City, and Dallas -- in a move that will put smiles on faces at BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND).

The announcement comes only a few months after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reversed a ruling that had, in effect, frozen many MSO plans to deploy the bandwidth-saving technology. (See FCC Reverses SDV Ruling.)

TWC said the deployments in the three key markets will help it free up room for high-definition television channels, HD VoD programming, and Docsis 3.0. TWC has already eclipsed the 100 HD channel mark in New York City thanks to an analog reclamation program. TWC has also identified NYC as its first market to get wideband services.

Still, the latest round of deployments reconfirms TWC as a champion of SDV, having launched the technology in more than 20 markets already. The new deal will also position BigBand's SDV technology in systems that cover a further 6 million homes. The vendor ended the second quarter with a market-leading SDV footprint of more than 25 million households. (See BigBand Dives on Soft Q3 Warning.)

BigBand president and CEO Amir Bassan-Eskenazi wouldn't be drawn on any direct connections between the FCC ruling and the new round of deployments at TWC, but he acknowledged that the Commission's decision "would motivate some people to deploy SDV even faster."

Those "people" may not include the folk at Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), though. That MSO launched some early SDV trials in Denver, Cherry Hill, N.J., and Minneapolis/St. Paul, but has since favored a major analog bandwidth reclamation program that will use millions of Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) devices to help complete the task. (See Comcast Profits Grow, Sub Adds Slow , Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan , and Comcast Expands SDV Test Pool.)

Although DTAs and going "all-digital" are central to Comcast's near-term strategy, the MSO has recently indicated that it doesn't view SDV and analog reclamation as mutually exclusive but hasn't indicated when it might get more aggressive with switching. (See Burke Gives SDV Some Hope .)

BigBand, meanwhile, has been making a similar argument, holding that MSOs that go with analog-reclamation strategies early on will still have to go to SDV as they continue to add more unicast and personalized services to the mix. The vendor's also hopeful that its SDV plane will serve as a platform for additional applications, including IPTV. (See BigBand Pushes IP Video Convergence.)

Not everyone has shared BigBand's enthusiasm for SDV of late. One analyst expects BigBand's SDV business to be "flat-to-down" during the next nine months to a year, while another, Heavy Reading senior analyst Alan Breznick, recently cut his SDV forecast. He now expects the switched digital universe in the U.S. and Canada to hit 35 million homes by the end of this year: That's down from an original forecast of 50 million. (See Has Cable SDV Peaked? and DTAs Sidetrack Cable SDV .)

BigBand hasn't offered any similar projections, but it still fancies its SDV prospects. "We see a lot of people deploying SDV and more in the process of planning to deploy. There's a lot more footprint to be awarded," Bassan-Eskenazi insists.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to TelcoTV 2009, the telecom industry’s premier event for the exploration of a comprehensive entertainment convergence strategy, to be staged in Orlando, Fla., November 10-12. For more information, or to register, click here.

Be the first to post a comment regarding this story.
Sign In