Cox Communications confirmed that it has kicked off its all-digital migration, starting with Cox systems in Connecticut.
A spokesman said Cox will expand the effort to some additional markets next year, but hasn’t identified which ones are next in line.
The project will enable Cox to reclaim gobs of spectrum currently being used for analog video (Cox currently uses about 60 channels for analog, though that total varies by system). Cox will use that reclaimed capacity to fuel other services, including more channels, VOD, and future broadband offerings that will lean on DOCSIS 3.1, the emerging multi-gigabit platform for hybrid fiber/coax networks.
More than 50% of that recaptured spectrum will be used for DOCSIS 3.1, Kevin Hart, Cox’s EVP and CTO, told Multichannel News in an interview earlier this year, noting that Cox has a “very aggressive schedule” to complete the all-digital project through 2016. In addition to some targeted use of fiber-to-the-premises technology, DOCSIS 3.1 is expected to play a big role in Cox’s plan to begin market-wide deployments of gigabit speeds by the end of 2016.
In Connecticut, Cox will be well along the all-digital path by January 2015, requiring customers to use set-tops or a new Cox “Mini Box,” the Hartford Courant reported.
The Cox Mini Box is a Digital Terminal Adapters (DTAs), downstream-only “channel-zappers” that convert digital signals to analog. Cox’s is using a new class of DTA with an HDMI port that supports high definition TV. Cox’s HD-DTAs will also come with a remote control, an on-screen guide, and parental controls.
Multichannel Newsreported in August that Cox had selected Evolution Digital and Cisco Systems as its first two DTA suppliers. The Donohue Report reported in September that a wall-plate version of a DTA made by Evolution (through its partnership with South Korean set-top maker Digital Multimedia Technology) for Cox recently passed muster at the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology. Evolution’s patented Liberty wall-plate HD-DTA, which deters box theft in environments such as multiple-dwelling units, is also considered “universal” because it can run on cable networks based on the Cisco or Motorola/Arris platform. Cox and Comcast are both deploying that model, Evolution CEO Chris Egan told The Donohue Report.
Existing subs can order up to two DTAs for no additional charge, for up to two years, and customers who sign up by April 28, 2015, will get a free box for 120 days, the paper noted. Otherwise, customers can lease a DTAs for $1.99 per month. For qualified customers who instead want more traditional interactive cable boxes, Cox is also providing CableCARD (removable security modules) at no charge for up to two years.
Like other MSOs that use DTAs to fuel all-digital migrations, Cox developed self-install kits to ease the process and reduce truck rolls and other operations costs.