TWC’s all-digital migration takes Manhattan

Thu, 08/01/2013 - 11:24am
Mike Robuck

Yesterday Time Warner Cable started transitioning analog channels in its basic TV tier in Manhattan to an all-digital signal.

Time Warner Cable’s all-digital conversion project will roll into Brooklyn and Queens later this year.

In June, the nation’s second-largest cable operator cut over to all-digital in Mount Vernon and Staten Island in New York and Bergen, N.J. Time Warner Cable is using HD digital transport adapters (DTAs) from Cisco in the New York metropolitan area to help free up additional bandwidth.

“Time Warner Cable is always looking for ways that customers can enjoy home entertainment better,” said John Quigley, Time Warner Cable’s regional vice president of operations for NYC. “Transitioning our channels from analog to digital will free up space on our network which gives us the ability to provide even better picture and sound quality, offer more HD channels, on demand programming and faster Internet speeds. This change potentially affects only customers whose TV sets are not connected to a digital set-top box.”

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 HDTVs through the use of HD DTAs.

In the New York Region, 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. The HD DTAs can be ordered by phone, online or picked up in person at several locations.

"Customers can easily install a digital adapter by requesting our ‘Easy Connect Kit,’ which is mailed to the home or schedule an appointment to have a technician visit,” Quigley said.

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 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.

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



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