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Comcast Sends In the All-Digital 'Cavalry'

Two Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) markets -- Chattanooga, Tenn., and the Philadelphia region -- are next in line to get the MSO's "all-digital" treatment.

Dozens of analog channels will be moved to digital in those markets later this year. For now, Comcast is offering to install digital set-tops and one-way digital terminal adapters (DTAs) during routine truck rolls before the market is considered to be "on the clock" for the actual migration of analog channels to the digital domain.

"The goal is to get consumers ahead of the digital curve," says Comcast spokeswoman Alana Davis.

Referred to by Comcast as "Project Cavalry," the MSO's all-digital upgrade typically involves moving 40 analog channels or more to digital, a process that frees up valuable spectrum for more high-definition television and video-on-demand services, and Docsis 3.0. Although 40 or so channels are being moved to digital, Comcast, depending on the market, is still leaving about 30 channels, including local broadcast network feeds, in analog.

As Cavalry rides into town, customers who subscribe to Comcast's expanded basic tier are given one entry-level set-top and two DTAs for no added cost for as long as they remain Comcast customers. The interactive box supports the MSO's guide and apps such as video-on-demand. The one-way DTAs simply convert digital channels to analog format. (See Comcast Seeds Digital Shift With Free Boxes and Comcast Pursuing $35 Digital Dongle.)

Comcast already has Cavalry underway or completed in the Bay Area; Portland and Salem, Ore.; and Seattle and other parts of Washington. (See Comcast 'Cavalry' Rides Into NoCal and Comcast IDs First DTA Market.)

Comcast expects to start channel migrations in Chattanooga on a zone-by-zone basis starting in mid-April. The MSO hasn't announced when channel switches will start in the Philly region.

Speaking at a Deutsche Bank Securities conference yesterday, Comcast CFO Michael Angelakis said the MSO expects to go all-digital in about half its footprint this year.

Comcast has previously estimated it will need as many as 25 million DTAs to complete the job. Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Thomson S.A. (NYSE: TMS; Euronext Paris: 18453), and Pace Micro Technology are Comcast's announced DTA suppliers. (See Comcast's DTAs: Security Optional .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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