DirecTV Taps Tandberg

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Los Angeles— DirecTV Inc. has signed a $9 million deal with Tandberg Television for MPEG-4 encoding technology that will be used as the base for the satellite-TV provider’s local HDTV strategy.

And Terayon Communication Systems Inc. debuts a new edge decoder today (Feb. 21).

DirecTV took the next step toward adding local HDTV broadcast stations to its lineup. Later this year, the direct-broadcast satellite company will launch Spaceway 1 and 2, birds capable of delivering 500 local HD channels between them. In 2007, the company will launch DirecTV 10 and 11, with the capacity for an additional 1,000 local HD channels.

DirecTV is buying a supply of Tandberg encoders for the first of 26 MPEG-4 (Moving Picture Experts Group) Advanced Video Coding HD-enabled transponders the DBS provider will commission, starting this summer.

The features include Tandberg’s EN5990 encoder and its Tandberg 1+1 HDTV-multiplexing system. DirecTV said the encoding systems will be installed at both its Los Angeles broadcast center and uplink facilities in Castle Rock, Colo.

Because MPEG-4 technology is more efficient, it’s possible to get four to six MPEG-4 HDTV signals on each transponder — double the number of MPEG-2 signals, a Tandberg executive said.

Terayon’s CP 7600 multichannel edge decoder can serve as a transition tool for operators moving to all digital networks, the company said. The decoder would sit in a local headend or hub and server to decode digital signals back for analog for those homes with analog TV sets.

Each unit can decode up to six MPEG-2 signals. Operators would be able to move their headend-to-hub transport to all-digital, thus saving bandwidth, said Terayon director of product marketing Mark Jeffrey.

Operators could then transition the analog signals, one by one, at the hub site, and slowly migrate subscribers to an all-digital network, spreading out the costs of the all-digital set-top migration.

Jeffrey said an ASI (advanced services implementation) version of the new decoder has been deployed in some markets, and a Gigabit Ethernet version is in lab tests. A number of cable systems have committed to buying the CP 7600, he said.

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