DTAs Pop Out Of The Woodwork

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While tru2way was clearly a big topic at The Cable Show, a bigger deal in the near-term is something far less sexy — and a whole lot cheaper – than interactive TV set-tops: digital-to-analog converters.

Tru2way (nee OCAP) is important for cable because it meets business and (the industry is hoping, anyway) regulatory objectives. The technology was a big focus in New Orleans: see Top Execs Tout Tech, Interactive TV Demos Aplenty At Cable Show, Comcast Media Center Launches ITV Services, and Leslie Ellis’ column on My Wish List For Tru2way Conference.

Competitively tru2way lets cable look more Internet-like; the idea is to fuel new kinds of advanced advertising and drive up ARPU with cool new interactive services (e.g. multiplayer gaming). Tru2way, fingers crossed, also will meet the FCC’s demand to open up two-way cable services to retail CE devices (see Two-Way Tussle, Dec. 10).

But for the next 12 months, DTAs will be the cooler customer premises equipment story (see Analog Zappers, May 12). 

Why? Because they will let Comcast and others reclaim analog spectrum a lot more cheaply than using regular cable set-top boxes. Each DTA should be less than half the cost, according to Comcast’s Steve Burke.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, in the opening general session on Sunday, said there’s a huge near-term opportunity to increase capacity through analog reclamation. To reclaim 250 to 500 MHz from analog channels, Roberts said, will probably cost the industry less than $5 billion. That’s compared with $100 billion MSOs shelled out to upgrade from 500 to 750 MHz.

The vendors have responded to the DTA call.

Motorola, Cisco and Thomson were all showing off prototypes of devices this week, and Thomson’s DCI 1011 was a working model. Pace Micro has one too, but it’s keeping mum about it, and a smaller vendor, Evolution Digital, has a paying customer for its DTAs, Massillon Cable TV in Ohio.

Here are first looks at some of the DTAs:

Cisco’s DTA 50

Motorola’s DTA industrial design

Evolution Digital’s DTA

Also: The guys over at


have more pictures of DTAs from the show, including one of the

TV-mountable Thomson unit