Policy

Comcast Digs Those DTA Devices

4/25/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Comcast’s love affair with digital transport
adapters — low-cost devices that convert digital TV for viewing
on older analog televisions — is still going strong.

To date, the nation’s biggest cable operator has distributed
more than 18 million DTAs to customers as part of a $1 billion,
multiyear project to eliminate analog cable channels,
a conversion that was about 75% complete at the end of 2010.

Now, the MSO is looking to extend the DTA in new directions:
Comcast plans to roll out an HD version of the adapter
and is even testing a way to deliver program-guide information
to them.

The DTA initiative, which has the internal code name
“Project Cavalry,”
lets Comcast eliminate
35 to 50 analog
channels in its expanded-
basic lineups.
That reclaims as
much as 300 Megahertz
or more of
spectrum, which the operator is using to provide more video-
on-demand, more HD channels and faster broadband.

“All of this means we’re delivering better products to
our customers, more high-def and foreign-language programming,
up to 25,000 on-demand choices, better guides,
improved [digital video recorder] functionality, more interactivity,
as well as higher speeds for our
high-speed Internet customers,” Comcast
CEO Brian Roberts said on the operator’s
February earnings call.

Comcast is now looking to use the DTA as
a relatively inexpensive way to deliver HD
programming to customers who don’t want
a DVR or other advanced features.

The HD models will be “universal” DTAs,
meaning they will work with Motorola and
Cisco Systems conditional-access systems,
Comcast senior director of corporate communications
Jenni Moyer said. The HD uDTAs would include
radio-frequency remotes (which don’t require line-of-sight, as
infrared remotes do) and would have an HDMI output.

Comcast hasn’t disclosed when it plans to begin deploying
the HD uDTAs, nor has it notified the supplier,
Moyer said. But she noted that the Federal Communications
Commission last October revised its CableCard
rules to allow operators to deploy one-way HD DTA devices
that have integrated security functions.

On another track, Comcast is testing out an electronic
guide, code-named “Atom,” which would provide access
to program-listing information comparable to what
is available through conventional digital set-top boxes,
Moyer said. The guide info would be delivered in the
same way the DTAs’ firmware is updated. Currently, the
SD adapters provide only channel name and number.

Comcast won’t disclose exactly what it pays for the
DTAs, but the standard-definition versions are under
$50 apiece — less than half the cost of conventional
digital set-tops. They’re also smaller, measuring roughly
3 by 5 inches or less.

DIGITAL UPDATE

Project description: Digital transport adapters convert digital TV into
analog format, letting Comcast eliminate analog cable channels to
reclaim spectrum for new services.

DTA suppliers: Cisco, Motorola, Pace, Technicolor


HD unit:
“Universal” DTA works in both Motorola and Cisco systems


Guide:
“Atom” stripped-down DTA guide would provide TV listing info

SOURCE: Multichannel News research

October