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USDTV Moves To Expand Capacity

Broadcast wireless cable operator USDTV is ready to expand channel capacity by upgrading to the MPEG-4 compression scheme. The switch should increase USDTV’s capacity by around 50%, but the company doesn’t plan to increase its rather slender menu of cable channels. Instead, USDTV will add a greater selection of pay-per-view movies.

USDTV says that, today, subscribers get around 30 channels for $19.95 monthly. But the bulk of those are over-the-air broadcast channels. About a dozen are cable channels such as ESPN and Fox News.

USDTV CEO Steve Lindsley says that the upgrade from the widely used MPEG-2 compression scheme dovetails with "our consistent theme" that "technology is going to continue to work in our favor. USDTV will start deploying upgraded set-tops to new subscribers immediately and send existing subscribers a small device to attach to their current receiver."

In addition to the PPV movies, USDTV may use the new capacity to add more Spanish-language programming in Hispanic markets.

USDTV teams with local TV stations to tap the capacity of their digital signals, creating a mini wireless cable system. The company has launched service in five markets, including Dallas, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, and plans to add several more cities this year.