updated 03:35 pm EDT, Thu June 26, 2008
Comcast TV All Digital
Comcast's cable TV network will be all digital in the space of three years, according to claims by an unnamed senior executive at a communications company. The service provider is allegedly buying up as many six million digital-to-analog devices from Motorola and others this year as well as 12 million in 2009, all of which will be handed out to subscribers whose TVs don't support digital tuning. The move will let Comcast shut off analog cable entirely in favor of purely digital networks; the process should have all of Comcast's cable base on digital channels by 2011.
The aggressive effort is spurred on largely by Comcast's desire to bring some of its high-end services into the mainstream, according to the same source. The cable company is known to be unhappy with the relatively low number of HD channels it can offer today, many of which are often heavily compressed to fit in the relatively low bandwidth available on today's TV networks. Removing analog signals would free up a large amount of bandwidth that can be used for extra and higher quality HD stations.
Dropping the legacy TV network would also be a crucial component of Comcast's DOCSIS 3.0 cable Internet service. Current versions already offer 50Mbps but have to do so at the expense of losing some analog stations in the few areas that can use the next-generation access. Future speed upgrades that include a move to 100Mbps are expected to require yet more space on the network.
The pace is ahead of what the US Federal Communications Commission is asking of cable providers: FCC guidelines only require that Comcast and others provide access to analog-only TV owners until 2012 and then still faces only a review rather than a mandatory cut-off point.
The company is known to be responding to pressure from DirecTV, which currently has many more HD channels, as well as Verizon's FIOS fiber-optic Internet service, which itself is at 50Mbps and much faster than Comcast's current DOCSIS 2.0 Internet access.