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Charter’s All-Digital Wave Rolls into North Carolina

Charter Communications will launch its all-digital migration in the Ashville, N.C., area starting October 1, theCitizen-Times reported Sunday.

The migration will affect customers in Ashville, Black Mountain, Merion, Leicester, Weaverville and Waynesville, the paper said, citing Charter spokeswoman Patti Michel. The reclamation of analog spectrum will help Charter clear out room to offer 70 new HD channels, including Univision, WGN America, Fuse, CBS Sports Network, Nicktoons, Hallmark Movie Channel, ESPN Goal Line and BBC World News.

The Ashville area is the latest to get the all-digital treatment from Charter. It has a similar migration underway in parts of Southern California, including Long Beach, Glendale and Burbank, that it expects to complete by October. Charter completed its first all-digital conversion, in North Texas, in June.

On Charter’s second quarter call on August 6, president and CEO Tom Rutledge said Charter identified systems in Los Angeles; Saginaw, Mich.; and Greenburg,  S.C., among other markets that are targeted for all-digital transitions this year. “We’ll go through the whole company next year,” Rutledge said. A Charter spokeswoman said Spartanburg is also on the near-term list.

At this stage, Charter is using two-way boxes with CableCARDs to fuel its digital transition, eschewing simple one-way Digital Transport Adapters that have played a starring role in Comcast’s analog reclamation strategy.The paper reported that more than 90% of the homes in the Ashville area already use digital boxes on at least.

Looking ahead, Charter is planning to introduce dual-security boxes that support an integrated version of its legacy conditional access system as well as a new downloadable security platform. The new downloadable system is expected to support a new “World Box” under development that will take advantage of a cloud-centric apps platform. Charter declined to comment about its future box plans, but an industry source said Charter won’t be in position to conduct field trials until the second half of 2014.