Comcast Corp.'s announcement that it will purchase 1
million interactive digital consumer terminals and cable modems from Motorola Inc.'s
broadband-communications sector is further evidence that cable companies are making a
dramatic push into digital.
"Digital lays the foundation for the products that are
coming out in the future," said Vickie Glazar, vice president of public relations for
Comcast Cable Communications Inc. "Interactive television is one of the most highly
awaited, sought-after products demanded by customers. Our goal is to really expand the
number of customers who have the products as they become available."
Comcast said it agreed to deploy the Motorola General
Instrument Corp. "DCT-2000" and "DCT-5000+" interactive digital
set-top terminals and "SURFboard SB3100" Cable Television Laboratories
Inc.-certified cable modems during 2000 and 2001. Financial terms were not disclosed.
While Comcast has committed to buying at least 100,000
modems, it is still unclear how many DCT-2000 and DCT-5000+ set-top terminals the company
will buy, Glazar said.
"The exact split is dependent on the new products that
are coming out," she added.
Comcast has made significant strides in selling digital,
having reached 500,000 customers in 1999, and it hopes to double that number this year,
"It's a sizable order, but not surprising given that
these guys have been rolling out," SG Cowen Securities Corp. analyst Gary Farber said
of the transaction.
The Comcast purchase comes on the heels of Motorola's sale
of 1 million set-top boxes to Charter Communications Inc. at the end of last year.
Comcast will target the digital boxes and related Motorola
headend and software technologies for Fort Wayne, Ind.; Independence, Mo.; Prince Georges
County, Md.; Santa Barbara, Calif., Washington, D.C.; and other markets.
As part of its digital services offered to subscribers,
Comcast has already deployed hundreds of thousands of the DCT-2000 and predecessor
Motorola interactive digital set-top models in markets throughout the United States.
In addition, Motorola will provide its SURFboard cable
modems to multiple Comcast systems. These deployments will further expand Comcast's field
deployments of Motorola's high-speed-data technologies.
Michael Harris, president of Phoenix-based Kinetic
Strategies Inc., predicted that the DCT-5000+ would one day outsell the DCT-2000 version
simply because it allows "a lot more computing functionality."
In addition to services offered on today's digital-cable
products, the DCT-5000+ set-top platform provides new levels of advanced
interactive-broadband services, allowing consumers to simultaneously watch TV, surf the
Internet and talk on the phone.
The DCT-5000+ hosts a 347-MIPS (million instructions per
second) processor, a 32-bit 3-D graphics engine, an integrated DOCSIS-compliant (Data Over
Cable Service Interface Specification) cable modem and a large memory cache, delivering
PC-like power and functionality.
For the time being, though, the DCT-2000 remains the more
popular version of Motorola's set-top boxes. The company recently announced that in the
fourth quarter of last year, it sold 800,000 DCT-2000 boxes, compared with 200,000
DCT-5000+ boxes, bringing the total number of its set-top boxes in the field to more than
The DCT-2000 costs about $100 less than the DCT-5000+.