Video

Moto Helps Telco Go Video

10/24/2004 8:00 PM Eastern

Two years ago, The South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative Corp. rolled out a video-service package over digital subscriber line to 28,000 telephone subscribers in nine south central Kentucky counties.

Earlier this month, SCRTC — a 54-year-old cooperative that operates 16 telephone exchanges — hit the 10,000 video-subscriber plateau using video DSL technology from Motorola Inc. Both the vendor and SCRTC believe it’s the first time any telco has reached that milestone.

Even more stunning: the video subscriber rolls have surpassed the co-op’s 7,000-subscriber high-speed data roster.

The growth has been charted amidst a group of competitors, including DBS providers, Comcast Corp., Mediacom Communications Corp. and a municipally owned franchise in Glasgow, Ky. Welcome to the new world of multilevel, multi-service competition.

Several years ago, the co-op began installing 16 DSL access multiplexers throughout 300 carrier sites in its service area to offer high-speed data.

“We were beginning to phase out the old carriers and we put in [gear from] Next Level [Communications Inc.],” said SCRTC director of operations Kyle Jones. “When we put in 24 broadband-distribution terminals for data, we rolled out video” almost simultaneously with high-speed data service.

The coop then installed USAMs (universal services access multiplexers) or line-card shell aggregation service modules at the point where its fiber-to-the-curb technology switches to copper plant. Some of those shells are in central office buildings, while others reside on poles or are housed on pop-up carrier sites, Jones said.

Homes must be within 10,000 feet of those sites to receive video service. VDSL homes can receive two streams of video, switched from a location closer to the origination point of the network.

The co-op installed residential gateway devices in homes that wanted video service. The RGDs included a DSL modem terminal, digital MPEG-2 (Moving Pictures Expert Group) decoders that feed back into the coaxial cable plant and an Ethernet termination for high-speed data.

SCRTC also offers a tier of off-air TV stations from Nashville, Tenn., and Louisville, Bowling Green and Lexington, Ky., as well as home shopping channels, for $26.95 a month.

The core 95-channel video package costs $34.95 a month and provides familiar basic-cable channels, plus services of particular interest to the co-op’s rural members, including the RFD Network, a rural farming channel, a radar channel and a weather channel. It also offers 32 premium channels and TV Guide Interactive.

The combined offering allows the co-op to converge services. While cable operators are beginning to explore caller ID over the TV set, Jones said SCRTC already offers that service — for free.

It’s a switched-video setup. To change channels, the conditional access is authorized, according to Floyd Wagoner, director of marketing, Motorola Telecom Access Solutions. Channels are changed at the node.

The co-op digitized satellite channels at a constant bit rate between 3.2 Megabits per second and 3.5 Mbps. Signals are sent from the headend across an OC-12 SONET (synchronous optical network) ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) backbone to the broadband distribution terminals.

The co-op guarantees two pictures at 10,000 feet, but is also able to squeeze the distance to 12,000 feet for a single channel. It’s also sold 600 additional outlets to families that want more than two TV signals at a time, “but it’s kind of pricey,” Jones said.

The average video-and-data bill is $58 a month, a price that’s helped drive penetration, according to Jones.

And the fact that SCRTC remains a cooperative — last year, it gave back more than $1 million to its members, which works out to $36 per home — also helps it in its marketing efforts, since subscribers, in effect, own their cable, data and telephone company.

Want to read more stories like this?
Get our Free Newsletter Here!
August
October