Cable Operators

Allen Touts Cable’s Broadband Plant

1/12/2005 6:16 AM Eastern

Huntington Beach, Calif. -- Although his MSO is under siege from direct-broadcast satellite competitors, Paul Allen, chairman of Charter Communications Inc. and founder and chairman of Vulcan Inc., remains bullish that cable’s broadband plant is best-positioned to provide connected, high-bandwidth consumer services.

The combination of cable’s high-bandwidth plant and set-top boxes with more firepower will allow cable to deliver new and better services to consumers, including extensions via wireless technology and portable devices, Allen said in a keynote speech at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ Emerging Technologies conference here Wednesday.

“We’re in the driver’s seat going forward,” he added.

Charter has launched digital simulcast, Allen said -- a step toward an all-digital network. Recapturing analog, some 70% of a cable system’s bandwidth, means that “we could use that for HDTV, VOD [video-on-demand] and additional data services,” Allen said.

“The picture quality is better than satellite,” he added, “and it’s great to be able to say that. Everybody is moving in this direction.”

Allen also said cable will eventually look at introducing MPEG-4 (Moving Picture Expert Group) compression, which will save bandwidth, with initial deployments of MPEG-4 HDTV content on VOD platforms.

Cable can deliver the quadruple play -- video, voice, data and wireless services -- enabling customers to move content and connect devices through advanced set-tops, Allen said. With a built-in Data Over Cable System Interface Specification modem, a set-top can provide voice-over-Internet-protocol service, for instance, he added.

Allen added, “MSOs need to develop partnerships” with wireless and cellular companies. And it’s not just about voice, he said, adding, “You start thinking about the phone as a video-terminal device … and what does that mean for us as cable-TV companies?”