Comcast gears up for digital upgrades in New Jersey

Wed, 06/17/2009 - 9:05am
Mike Robuck

Comcast has saddled up its “Project Cavalry” initiative to ride into parts of its New Jersey footprint. Project Cavalry is Comcast’s name for its reclamation of bandwidth by moving analog channels to digital.

Comcast is moving the analog signals in order to free up bandwidth for advanced services and technologies such as DOCSIS 3.0 data, as well as more high-definition channels and video-on-demand offerings.

Project Cavalry is slated for the Union, Meadowlands, Plainfield, Trenton, Princeton, Hamilton and Lambertville systems this summer. The only system with a firm date for the digital upgrade is Plainfield, which will get underway July 28 with 14 channels moving to digital distribution. Comcast spokesman Jeff Alexander said the remaining basic channels in Plainfield will be changed about 30 days later.

The expanded basic channels that are being moved to the digital environment vary across the areas, but generally include channels 26-99 throughout the region. Customers will be able to receive limited basic channels, which are basic broadcast channels, generally ranging from 2 to 25, with no equipment required. 

Comcast is offering its standard basic subscribers two digital terminal adapters (DTAs) and one digital set-top box for free. Customers can pick up the equipment and install it themselves or pay Comcast $18 for installation. Additional adapters will cost $1.99 per month, while set-top boxes can run from $5 to $9 per month based on the level of a customer’s service plan.

Alexander said Comcast has started its digital upgrade in its “Freedom Region,” which includes its hometown of Philadelphia and surrounding suburbs, northern Delaware and New Jersey.

“We’ve started to deploy devices in the large majority of the greater Philadelphia area, as well as north and south New Jersey,” Alexander said.

Comcast currently delivers a fully digital signal to about 85 percent of its customer base and plans on having its digital upgrade completed by next year. DTA’s have been a key piece in Comcast’s move to digital (story here).

Cable operators can reclaim between 250 MHz and 300 MHz in each system that goes all digital. If a typical cable system has 79 analog channels and the operator decides to move 59 of those channels to digital, while perhaps leaving 20 or so as a life-line analog service for some select markets, it would reclaim 354 MHz.

Given 354 MHz of reclaimed spectrum in the example above – and the fact that, on average, 10 SD MPEG-2 digital programs can be inserted into one 6 MHz slot – this yields enough bandwidth for nearly 590 channels.

More Broadband Direct 06/17/09:
•  Comcast gears up for digital upgrades in New Jersey
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•  Comcast shows IPv6 readiness at conference
•  U.S. Trustee objects to Charter bankruptcy plan
•  DirecTV draws a bead on targeted advertising
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•  Comcast's new debt given investment grade rating
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•  Research: Consumers prefer Internet over cell phones, cable 
•  Reception problems linger after DTV transition
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•  Attempted Iran media clampdown meets Internet age
•  Broadband Briefs for 06/17/09



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