All-Digital: Whether And How To Get There (2004)

By Nick Hamilton-Piercy, Rogers Cable Inc. S.V. Vasudevan, BigBand Networks, Inc

This year witnesses the first launches of “all-digital networks” by major cable operators. These initiatives can free abundant bandwidth to support hundreds of additional TV channels, faster Internet service and more rapid launches and scaling of advanced video services such as video ondemand and high definition. They also usher in less expensive set-top boxes and other subscriber devices, based only on digital tuning, and have promise for delivering better video quality. However, the path to the all-digital network does not happen with a simple flip of a switch. Implementation can be quite disruptive to subscribers, as each one will now need to have every one of their television sets and possibly VCRs connected to a digital set-top box (unless these devices are digital cable-ready). This scenario has the potential to become an operational disaster, to say nothing of the imposition many subscribers are likely to feel with specific devices forced everywhere they want to watch television. Consideration of all-digital cable certainly has merit, but methods and alternatives should also be weighed. There are other emerging techniques for conservation of bandwidth that can be employed before, in parallel with, or instead of going all-digital. And if all-digital is pursued, there are several options to minimize the cost and disruption of achieving it.

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