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CMC Takes 260 Headends All-Digital

More than 260 cable systems to date have converted to all-digital video distribution using Comcast Media Center's HITS Quantum SD service to replace analog feeds for basic and expanded basic channels.

By reclaiming analog bandwidth, operators can launch HD, video-on-demand and other advanced services. Gary Traver, CMC's senior vice president and chief operating officer, said moving to all-digital operation is a more-effective means of freeing up capacity to introduce new services, especially for systems operating with older plant running at 550 MHz or less.

"When you look at the cost to upgrade to even 750 MHz, [migrating to digital video] is much more compelling," Traver said.

The HITS Quantum 256-QAM service offers nearly 70 standard-definition feeds of cable programming networks. Using compression, operators can deliver between 12 and 15 digital SD channels in a 6-MHz QAM -- the same space required for one analog channel.

Then, Traver said, "once you free up that bandwidth, we have a host of services designed to drive incremental subscriber revenue."

CMC's advanced services portfolio includes VOD In a Box, offered in conjunction with Arris, which provides a turnkey video-on-demand solution.

Currently, as part of its all-digital offering, CMC supports Motorola and Thomson digital transport adapters (DTAs), sub-$50 devices that convert digital video to analog. The Federal Communications Commission is considering requests from both vendors that would allow operators to deploy their DTAs with encryption.

Comcast Cable, meanwhile, is itself undertaking a large-scale digital-video conversion initiative using DTAs, dubbed Project Cavalry, to free up space for HD and other services. The MSO has launched the effort in markets including Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and Philadelphia.

Comcast expects to complete the conversion across its footprint by the end of 2010.