Comcast Reveals SDV Test Beds
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) systems serving parts of Denver and New Jersey are the sites the MSO has selected for "early stage trials" of switched digital video (SDV), a technique that promises to boost the efficiency of valuable cable bandwidth.
Comcast Corp. COO and Comcast Cable President Steve Burke mentioned those markets Thursday morning during the MSO's first quarter earnings call with reporters and analysts. (See Data, Voice Growth Drive Comcast in Q1 .)
Speaking in January at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Conference on Emerging Technologies, Comcast Vice President of Product Platform Engineering Rick Rioboli disclosed that the MSO was testing SDV in two markets, but did not mention them by name. (See MSOs Switch Digital Gears.)
"We're doing very early stage trials in a couple of markets, Denver and New Jersey, and when I say very early, I'm talking in the lab and with employees," Burke said Thursday, responding to a question from an analyst. "We're committed to switched digital playing a role in our capacity enhancements, but I think it's too early to declare victory or say that the trials are doing well or poorly."
Under the SDV scenario, several networks are moved from the traditional broadcast lineup to a "switched" tier. A switched network remains dormant on the cable system until a subscriber selects it for viewing. Once selected, a stream of that network is sent to the service group. Other customers in that service group can jump onto the same active stream. The concept frees up spectrum because the cable operator would not necessarily have to broadcast every channel on the linear lineup.
In guidance issued in February, Comcast said it had earmarked about $150 million for its 2007 SDV plans. At the time, MSO Executive Vice President and co-CFO John Alchin said the capital set aside for SDV was perhaps enough to cover 30 percent of Comcast's footprint.
As for vendor support for the Comcast SDV trials, BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) is among the leading candidates. In announcing that its SDV tech passed more than 5 million homes, BigBand said earlier this month that two top five MSOs in the U.S. had deployed its platform commercially, and another in the top five had "selected" it. (See Mulling a Milestone.)
Although Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) is the only "announced" deployment partner of BigBand's, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) is believed to be the second.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News