Time Warner Cable’s all-digital project is rolling into other areas of its New York City footprint and the nation’s second-largest cable operator is using HD digital transport adapters (DTAs) from Cisco.
The HD DTAs allow subscribers to tap into HD services without more expensive DVRs or set-top boxes that require CableCards. The one-way devices don’t support VOD or pay-per-view services. By using an HDMI connection, customers can opt for an analog-type viewing experience on their new HD TVs through the use of HD DTAs.
In the New York area, the DTAs will be free of charge to business and residential customers through December, 2014. After that Time Warner Cable will charge 99 cents per month for each adapter.
Earlier this year, Comcast upset some of its subscribers when it announced it was charging $1.99 a month for DTAs that were previously free. Late last year, Comcast started a phased deployment of HD DTAs ahead of deploying them across its entire footprint.
Time Warner Cable subscribers in Mount Vernon, Staten Island and Bergen County, N.J. have received letters in regards to analog channels in the Basic TV tier being changed to digital, according to a blog post by Time Warner Cable’s Jeff Simmermon.
“This is something we’re doing to eventually convert to an all-digital network, freeing up bandwidth on our network in New York,” Simmermon wrote. “We did it in Maine a few years ago, and now are rolling it across NYC.
“This means, essentially that we can offer a much better picture and sound quality, offer more On Demand programming, and faster Internet speeds.”
Time Warner Cable was an early proponent of switched digital video (SDV) as a means to reclaim bandwidth. In 2009, Time Warner Cable worked with BigBand Networks, which is now owned by Arris, on an SDV implementation that included New York City.
Time Warner Cable wrapped up its first all-digital pilot project last year in Augusta, Maine, and surrounding communities using DTAs from Technicolor.
In Time Warner Cable’s fourth-quarter earnings report earlier this year, CEO and chairman Glenn Britt mentioned that the company would go all-digital in markets where it needed capacity, which at the time included New York City and part of Los Angeles.
Cable operators are freeing up bandwidth by converting their analog channels to digital. The end result will be more HD and SD channels, as well as faster DOCSIS 3.0-based tiers and other services.
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 lifeline 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 standard-definition MPEG-2 digital programs can be inserted into one 6 MHz slot – this yields enough bandwidth for nearly 590 channels.