Comcast Corp. executives are pondering a more rapid shift to an
all-digital-cable transmission platform -- perhaps in the next three years -- to
free up bandwidth for expanded video-on-demand, high-definition-TV and data
offerings that satellite would be hard-pressed to match.
The accelerated timetable is a crucial shift in cable-operator thinking, and
it is largely built on the premise that a low-cost, perhaps $35
set-top/converter can be developed in the next 24 to 36 months for the millions
of legacy analog-TV sets.
The shift in cable's time horizon, especially on Comcast's part, stems from a
number of reasons.
One is the pressure the government has brought to speed along the digital
transition and the political benefit cable would enjoy by beating broadcasters
to the punch.
Second is the popularity -- and competitive advantage -- offered by VOD and
HDTV, which will require much more bandwidth.
Third is the scale Comcast brings to the market, as well as further expected
drops in the price of set-tops. Both factors would make a $35 set-top/converter
"If I look at my own evolution of thinking in this area, I originally had
thought: We're going to have analog signals after everyone else in the world,
including broadcasters, have gone digital," Comcast executive vice president and
chief technology officer Dave Fellows said.
The introduction of VOD and HDTV -- and government mandates on broadcasters
to go all-digital by Dec. 31, 2006 -- have hastened the timetable, he