Cox Communications is putting MPEG-4 to work with plans to add up to 30 HD channels in the format to its Advanced TV Plus tier, which is available in only some of the MSO's markets, by the end of 2011.
Approximately 10% of Cox's installed base of Motorola and Cisco Systems set-top boxes is MPEG-4 capable. Today, Cox does not deliver any services in MPEG-4.
MPEG-4 is far more efficient than the current standard for digital cable, MPEG-2 -- consuming as little as one-third the bandwidth -- but the majority of MSOs' set-tops do not support the newer standard. Many cable operators are looking at using MPEG-4 for IP-delivered video services and multiscreen applications.
Cox said all the channels in the MPEG-4 HD tier will be HD versions of channels the operator currently offers in standard-definition. Networks whose HD simulcasts are scheduled to be added include: DIY, Cooking Channel and The Hub and premium services HBO Signature, Action Max and Starz Comedy.
Cox's Advanced TV Plus package provides several enhanced features including multiroom DVR, additional HD channels and the company's HD-optimized Trio guide, which provides integrated search, personalization features and a three-panel guide layout.
Subscribers who take the Plus tier need new set-tops anyway, to support the multiroom DVR and tru2way-based Trio guide, and those new boxes are both MPEG-2- and MPEG-4-capable.
The Advanced TV Plus service is available in Cox markets including San Diego, New England, Oklahoma, Kansas, Omaha, Neb., and Hampton Roads, Va. Pricing varies by market.