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