USDTV Shifts to MPEG-4 with Tandberg’s Help


Fixed-wireless TV-service provider U.S. Digital Television LLC is turning to Tandberg Television to supply its MPEG-4 AVC digital-compression technology to help cut its per-channel bandwidth load and more than double the amount of programming it can offer to customers.

In doing so, it becomes the first broadcast-TV provider in the United States to convert from standard MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 AVC encoding.

Under the technology deal, Tandberg will provide its “EN5930” encoders to translate the broadcast and cable channels from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4, as well as its “MX5640” multiplexers and “nCompass” control system to transmit programming content via satellite.

The resulting MPEG-4 signals beamed to subscriber homes are reconverted back to MPEG-2 format using a USDTV transcoding device that plugs into its digital set-top box. A second-generation set-top USDTV plans to roll out later this year will integrate the transcoder inside the box.

"We selected Tandberg Television's compression solution because it maintains, and even improves, our video offering while expanding the amount of content we can offer our customers," USDTV vice president of engineering and product development Paul Boyden said. "The system provides us with increased bandwidth efficiencies and controls that enable us to ensure that our customers receive an outstanding viewing experience.”

Backed by a raft of broadcast investors including Fox Television Stations Inc., Hearst-Argyle Television Inc. and McGraw Hill Broadcasting, Salt Lake City-based USDTV offers an over-the-air digital-TV service with about 30 channels per market for $19.95 monthly.

USDTV’s system sends encrypted cable channels via satellite to local TV-station partners, where they are distributed over the air along with the broadcasters' primary channels.

It offers service in Dallas/Fort Worth; Salt Lake City; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Las Vegas.