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Evolution on evolution

Fri, 02/03/2012 - 12:49pm
Brian Santo

The digital terminal adapter is a one-way device, a limitation that both justifies its existence and bars it from being a long-term solution. From its introduction, the DTA has been considered a dead end – a very, very useful device, but a dead end. Evolution Digital thinks maybe not.

Evolution Digital President Brent Smith and CEO Chris Egan are being circumspect about exactly how they expect to get around the injunction against two-way communications, but they believe it is possible.

The company has already demonstrated an ability to push boundaries on DTAs. The device owes its existence to the FCC, which first granted a waiver of separable security rules for a version that is one-way and handles standard-definition (SD) channels. The FCC subsequently extended the waiver to cover one-way units that transmit high-definition (HD) channels.

The DTA is a simple and relatively inexpensive vehicle for reclaiming analog bandwidth. Once a cable operator distributes the devices systemwide, it can then stop sending analog signals and reuse the spectrum for other services. That can include just about any service a cable operator can concieve of when it comes to subscribers with two-way boxes, but it can mean only more channels for subscribers equipped with DTAs.

The obvious next step in making a DTA a useful device, then, would be to make it a two-way device, which by statute it cannot be.

Smith and Egan would not comment directly on how they expect to do this in the U.S., but they pointed out that the company has a hybrid DTA that it sells in international markets and noted that IP delivery is not subject to the two-way ban.

In an otherwise wide-ranging discussion, Egan pointed out that in a situation where a cable operator goes to all-IP, it’s the gateway that becomes, if not a dead end, then an overly expensive piece of overkill. An IP-based DTA becomes a very attractive option.

No major cable operators have signaled that they’re ready to go all-IP anytime soon. Certainly Comcast – Evolution Digital’s signature customer – hasn’t talked about any such intentions.

So while that may be the most obvious guess for the possible opportunity that Smith and Egan think they see for Evolution Digital, it may be some intermediary measure. Either way, it’s worth keeping an eye on what the company does.

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