With more reason than ever to reclaim analog bandwidth, Cox Communications is now extending its transition to all-digital TV beyond its launch market in Connecticut to systems in Rhode Island and Tulsa, Okla. (See Cox Starts All-Digital Rollout.)
As first reported by Multichannel News, Cox Communications Inc. is supporting the transition with Digital Transport Adapters provided by Evolution Digital LLC and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). These DTAs are offered by Cox under the brand name "Mini Box", and subscribers are eligible for one free Mini Box for up to a year. Additional units are available for $1.99 per month.
A spokesperson for Cox, the third-largest MSO in the US with more than 4 million video subscribers, confirmed that New Orleans and Cleveland are next on the digital transition roadmap. He also confirmed that the company will eventually transition all of its markets to digital-only television.
The cable industry has pursued bandwidth-saving techniques for years, from node splits and switched digital video to plant upgrades and analog reclamation. However, the impetus to move quickly now comes from the explosion of online video streaming, along with the race to provide gigabit broadband services.
In particular, cable companies want to expand capacity to take advantage of some of the benefits of the new DOCSIS 3.1 standard. The more spectrum capacity cable operators can leverage for DOCSIS 3.1, the more efficiently they can deliver IP services. (See Comcast Puts DOCSIS 3.1 Live in the Field.)
Cox is in a different position from many other cable companies in that it's already enjoying the bandwidth benefits of having upgraded its plant to 1GHz. Most other systems in the US are still running at 750MHz or 860MHz. As Cox Executive Director of Network Architecture Jeff Finkelstein commented on a Light Reading panel this week, the Cox team is "still going to ride that curve" of the 1GHz investment in many ways for a few more years.
For instance, while moving ahead with its all-digital transition and DOCSIS 3.1 deployment plans, Cox can hold off on making decisions about a potential distributed strategy for Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) technology, which would push more bandwidth capacity closer to subscribers.
Upgrading to 1GHz is an option for other cable companies as they plot their move to DOCSIS 3.1. According to Cisco CTO of Cable Access John Chapman, European operators are even considering a boost up to 1.2GHz.
Near term, a shift from the MPEG2 video compression standard to MPEG4 is also a practical bandwidth-saving solution. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), which completed its transition to all-digital TV back in 2013, is now migrating from MPEG2 to MPEG4 in the Augusta, Georgia market.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading