BendBroadband stuck a fork in its conversion to an all-digital platform earlier this month. The central Oregon cable system’s entire analog cable TV signal was turned off on Jan. 2.

“The transition to an all-digital platform puts BendBroadband in an important strategic position,” BendBroadband President and CEO Amy Tykeson. “By eliminating carriage of analog signals, we were able to reclaim more than 300 MHz of spectrum (out of 750 MHz) – nearly half – and avoid the significant cost associated with a major system rebuild.

“This allows us to continue to increase Internet speeds – with the implementation of DOCSIS 3.0 in 2009 and IP simulcast in the future. We now have sufficient bandwidth capacity to maintain our national leadership position in HD channel count and aggressively pursue the deployment of advanced video services.”

With the additional bandwidth capacity from going all-digital, BendBroadband now has 71 HD channels, with plans to offer five more HD channels later this month.

Additionally, in July of last year, BendBroadband was able to double the download speeds – up to 16 Mbps – for the company’s high-speed Internet customers.

By late 2007, with about 50 percent of its customers subscribing to digital cable, BendBroadband said it had already made significant progress toward its goal of becoming a completely digital system by 2010 or 2011.

The all-digital timetable was ramped up when the Federal Communications Commission granted a conditional waiver to the company from the separable security ban in July of 2007.

The FCC allowed BendBroadband to continue deployment of its low-cost Motorola DCT700 set-top boxes with the caveat that the company eliminate analog service by the end of last year.  BendBroadband said access to the DCT700 was critical to migrating customers in order to provide an affordable all-digital solution.

During the final few months of the transition to all-digital, BendBroadband began the selective reclamation of analog channels, which allowed for the continued expansion of its HD lineup. BendBroadband now carries 71 HD channels, with five more scheduled for launch in January.

Earlier this week, RCN said it was close to completing its transition to an all-digital platform (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 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 SD MPEG-2 digital programs can be inserted into one 6 MHz slot, this yields enough bandwidth for nearly 590 channels.

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