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Charter’s all digital train rolls into Missouri, Southern Illinois

Thu, 01/02/2014 - 12:29pm
Mike Robuck

With the end game of having all of its systems all digital by the first half of this year, Charter announced this morning that all-digital upgrades will start in the middle of this month in Missouri and Southern Illinois.

Charter said the upgrades, which are scheduled to be completed by mid-summer, would add more than 200 HD channels to its lineup in those areas, as well as “significantly” faster Internet speeds.

“By removing outdated analog signals, we regain bandwidth in our network enabling us to provide more HD channels and open the door to faster Internet speeds and future innovation," said Charter President and CEO Tom Rutledge. "This upgrade speaks to the fact that Charter is providing our customers with the very best products at the very best value and we've invested more than $2 billion in our fiber-rich network to make that happen."

Charter said it would transition its subscribers to the all digital signals on a rolling basis. In order to make the digital conversions work, subscribers need to get Charter-issued digital set-top boxes for each of their televisions.

Charter said it would be in touch with customers about their scheduled upgrade dates via direct mail, bill messages, outbound calls, and messages that will appear on their television sets prior to their respective cutovers.

"More than 90 percent of Charter customers in Missouri and Southern Illinois have adopted digital devices for at least one television in their home," said Jon Hargis, Charter's executive vice president and chief marketing officer. "And we're making it convenient for customers to obtain additional equipment through direct shipment and expanded store locations and hours."

In addition to more HD channels and faster data speeds, Charter said subscribers would be able to access VOD content on each TV in their homes. Charter has more than 12,000 VOD options, including more than 3,000 in HD.

Charter’s first major all-digital conversion took place in North Texas early last year followed by conversion projects in California, South Carolina, Michigan and Massachusetts

Last year Rutledge said the CableCard waiver Charter received from the Federal Communications Commission worked in tandem with its all digital initiative. Unlike other cable operators, namely Comcast, Charter isn’t using digital transport adapters (DTAs) for its all-digital upgrades.

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.

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