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Old 12-26-2007, 04:00 PM   #901
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Yes, that's how HFC works.

Instead of tossing around insults, why don't you spend a couple minutes reading up on HFC?
OK, I think I understand the problem. Luke, you are thinking HFC tech that was originally introduced in the 90s. I am thinking of the systems which connect nodes to the master headend using IP over fiber. This system I am referring to allows many MPEG streams to be simultaneously sent out over the IP mulicasts around the fiber ring. At each node, IP multicasts are joined into and then the IP MPEG streams are modulated onto the local plant. This is how SDV will work well. All of the MPEG streams are available on the fiber ring but only those that have current requests from the node will actually be modulated onto the plant.

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Old 12-26-2007, 04:01 PM   #902
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Yes, that's how HFC works.

Instead of tossing around insults, why don't you spend a couple minutes reading up on HFC?
By the way, when did I insult you?
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Old 12-26-2007, 05:42 PM   #903
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No, I'm saying that the node is passing the signal unmodified. All the intelligence is upstream of the node.
I believe that is pretty close to what I said..... Frequency translation may or may not be considered modification.... probably not. 500Mhz isnt an 'optical' frequency and has to be modulated or frequency shifted to be sent over optical. From what I have read, the node demods downstream data from the fiber and ships it downstream on the coax. It also gathers the upstream data from the coax and modulates and ships that upstream on the fiber. This says that all the transport stream formation and QAM moduluation is done upstream from the node.

I dont know 'How' the node demods downstream data but it would seem that frequency translation would be a likely choice. Attempting to encode it further would seem to be more difficult.

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Old 12-27-2007, 01:57 AM   #904
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Cost of Switching

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It certainly does cost more. The switching function isn't free,
It's trivial on a per-channel basis, and the differential cost for each additional channel is nothing at all until they fill up a 10G fabric and have to light up another switching module in their switch. The switch itself costs less than $250,000. Each 10G card costs less than $85,000, and can hypothetically carry 640 1080i HD channels. In practice, they can probably only manage about 500 HD channels, but I've never actually seen one fully loaded, myself. If it were all SD, that would equate to over 3000 channels. The local CATV system hauls in over $1 million dollars a day just for San Antonio. A loaded switch costing $500,000 represents less than a half a day's revenue, and the expenditure is capitalized, so it doesn't hit the expense budget.

Even my company, which is much, much smaller than Time Warner Cable, doesn't have a heart attack at spending $500K on a key infrastructure component like that. Just recently the folks upstairs approved capital projects I submitted totalling $1.2 million dollars for expanding our local operation. Companies are required to publish their capital expenditures, and if you look at TWCs' or Comcast's financial statements, I'll bet they both laid out more than $1 billion each in capital expenditures the past year, or at least close to it, if not more.

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nor are QAM modulators free.
The same QAM modulator is used whether the channel is SDV or linear digital. There is no additional cost for SDV modulation, because it's the same.
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Old 12-27-2007, 02:09 AM   #905
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SDV stands for SWITCHED Digital Video

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I'd be encoding the signal once and distributing it to all my nodes; each node would then only need to combine that digital signal with whatever other digital signals are going out in a single QAM channel.
No, it's a switched protocol, essentially identical to Ethernet switching on your home LAN if you have one. The main switch at the headend sends each packet to whatever nodes require the packet in question. Large systems like those here in San Antonio use smaller intermediate headends, but the paradigm is the same. If a particular data stream is not in use by a particular intermediate headend, it doesn't get sent to the intermediate site. Only the digital streams needed by the node are sent to the node.
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Old 12-27-2007, 06:00 AM   #906
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The same QAM modulator is used whether the channel is SDV or linear digital. There is no additional cost for SDV modulation, because it's the same.
But there's no reason to have a 1:1 relationship between broadcast channel modulators and nodes. That would be redundant, since you can modulate once and split the signal.
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Old 12-27-2007, 07:16 AM   #907
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But there's no reason to have a 1:1 relationship between broadcast channel modulators and nodes. That would be redundant, since you can modulate once and split the signal.
But the problem is one QAM channel contains multiple subchannels of programming, the specific combination of which may and will change depending on what the subscribers on the node are tuned to. The actual combining of multiple channel datastreams and modulation on a specific QAM channel has to be performed at the node level.

The MPEG encoding of each channel can be performed once for the entire system.
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Old 12-27-2007, 07:40 AM   #908
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But the problem is one QAM channel contains multiple subchannels of programming, the specific combination of which may and will change depending on what the subscribers on the node are tuned to. The actual combining of multiple channel datastreams and modulation on a specific QAM channel has to be performed at the node level.
That is only for switched channels. The question is why such a capability would be needed for broadcast (not switched) channels, which are the same for every node.
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Old 12-27-2007, 07:43 AM   #909
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That is only for switched channels. The question is why such a capability would be needed for broadcast (not switched) channels, which are the same for every node.
That was what we were discussing in terms of all channels should be switched... it's quite likely in a node of only 150 to 500 homes that at any given time even some otherwise popular channels won't be tuned. Bandwidth is bandwidth and anything less than 100% 24-hour-a-day, 52-weeks-a-year demand for a channel represents utilization savings available to the cable operator.
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Old 12-27-2007, 07:59 AM   #910
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Let's remember that not everything is switched. In Austin, they supposedly switch 175 (of 265 listed) linear SD digital channels and 8 linear HD channels (out of 28 listed) onto 8 QAMs, about 14 fewer QAMs than it would take to send all those channels everywhere all the time. This still leaves 90 SD digital channels and 20 HD ones that aren't switched (and which are all probably too popular--requested by someone at every node all the time--to be useful to switch).

EDIT: I started composing this before the previous two were posted.
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Old 12-27-2007, 08:14 AM   #911
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That was what we were discussing in terms of all channels should be switched... it's quite likely in a node of only 150 to 500 homes that at any given time even some otherwise popular channels won't be tuned. Bandwidth is bandwidth and anything less than 100% 24-hour-a-day, 52-weeks-a-year demand for a channel represents utilization savings available to the cable operator.
From that Multichannel News article about the use of SDV in Austin:
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Todd Bowen, director of digital systems for Time Warner Cable’s Austin, Texas, division, delivered a key piece of wisdom for those deploying switched digital video: Be sure to get the right channels in the mix.

“The most important decision you’re going to make is which channels to switch,” Bowen said. “If you don’t pick the right channels, it’s going to bite you.”

That’s because if those channels are too popular -- that is, if they’re being watched by someone virtually all of the time -- those will potentially eat up all of the space set aside for the SDV pool, defeating the whole purpose of the technology.
...

At the operational level, the key question for Bowen was: Which to switch? He offered a few insights from Austin's experience. First, he said, anything in a tier -- like a sports tier or a non-English-language tier -- is a good candidate, because obviously, not everyone takes that tier of service. Alternate-time-zone feeds and pay-per-view channels are also likely to be among the least-viewed channels.

“Event pay-per-view, sports pay-per-view, that’s low-hanging fruit,” he added. “Those are 8-10 channels that are wasted when there are no events.”

But there are exceptions to the rules. For example, in Austin, the West Coast feed of a certain kids’ channel (“the channel’s company has a large theme park up the road,” Bowen noted) happens to be extremely popular. “It’s the babysitting channel,” he said. “It’s always on.”

Then there are blockbuster PPV events, like high-profile boxing matches. For one such bout recently, Bowen said, customers who subscribed to the event hadn’t followed Time Warner’s instructions to boot up their SA set-tops to download the SDV client from the BigBand servers, so they couldn’t tune to the PPV channel. The call center was swamped with irate subscribers. “It was a classic example of, ‘Whoops,’” Bowen said.

Time Warner Austin has since moved its main PPV-events channel back into regular digital broadcast, although Bowen added that other PPV channels work very well in a switched environment.

In the final analysis, in selecting the channels to be switched, “There’s no magic chart that goes, ‘yes-no-yes-no,’” he said. “It’s a case-by-case basis.”
It really isn't worth going after every little scrap of bandwidth for channels that are unused by anyone for 5 minutes here or there throughout the day. Being greedy about it doesn't buy you much but, as we're all well aware, will antoganize people trying to use your system via unidirectional DCR devices.
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Old 12-27-2007, 08:55 AM   #912
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nor are QAM modulators free.
The same QAM modulator is used whether the channel is SDV or linear digital. There is no additional cost for SDV modulation, because it's the same.
The smaller you made your node sizes the more edge QAMs you will need. There is no free lunch when it comes to bandwidth savings. Edge QAM vendors are salivating at the thought of widely deployed SDV.

You will also need more return path demodulators as the message traffic increases significantly over just VOD.
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Old 12-27-2007, 11:41 AM   #913
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From that Multichannel News article about the use of SDV in Austin:
It really isn't worth going after every little scrap of bandwidth for channels that are unused by anyone for 5 minutes here or there throughout the day. Being greedy about it doesn't buy you much but, as we're all well aware, will antoganize people trying to use your system via unidirectional DCR devices.
"640K ought to be enough for anybody." -- Bill Gates, 1981

It is always a matter of conflicting requirements... it's not unreasonable to expect cable companies will want to provide at least the first few tiers of basic channels in full to all subscribers just to avoid the inevitable complaints from unidirectional device owners who want to have access to channels. Inevitably, though, those same device owners will also want some SDV-based channels, so they'll be upset with you anyway.

It's much like the "need" to keep any analog channels around today. Look what we can do with the bandwidth taken up by one analog channel now and justifying using them for analog channels becomes more and more difficult.
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Old 12-27-2007, 12:20 PM   #914
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SDV just does not buy you enough on channels that are popular. Any SDV channel runs the risk of being requested when there is no bandwidth for it and the more popular the channel, the less acceptable that risk becomes.

I can't find it now, but I read one study online in which it was found that no more than 34 of the least popular 200 channels of a set of 300 was ever tuned concurrently on any last-mile segment of the cable system under study. Those are the kind of efficiencies that make SDV worthwhile.
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"It's much like the "need" to keep any analog channels around today. Look what we can do with the bandwidth taken up by one analog channel now and justifying using them for analog channels becomes more and more difficult.
Those are fairly easily justified--there are hundreds of millions of analog-only tuning televisions in use in the US today (my housemate uses one and until a year ago, I owned a 13-y/o 36" tube which is still in heavy use by the person that I gave it to). The cost of reclaiming that bandwidth now is the cost of distributing digital tuning devices to be attached to those televisions, and many of the owners of those televisions aren't interested in having a separate tuning box, because space is at a premium in the situation where the television is used (little sets on cramped bookshelves and hung under kitchen cabinets and sitting on workbenches in garages). Some people just don't want to have to deal with a separate device at all. (Someone needs to come up with a box that can simultaneously "tune" 75 digital basic/extended basic channels and blend them together as NTSC channels on coax--we about at the point where it can be done, but whether cheaply enough for this app is another matter).

Every year, more and more of those televisions are replaced with digital tuning ones, so the problem gradually diminishes and eventually it will make sense to dump analog cable. It's likely to happen before it's convenient for everyone. The FCC has recently mandated that local television will have to continue to be rebroadcast by cable in analog until 2012 (even though the broadcasters themselves will be prohibited from putting it on the air in analog form ). That decision doesn't affect even all of the 20 channels that you get in basic cable though, much less extended basic.
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Old 12-27-2007, 12:31 PM   #915
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MicroTune has a chip (the MT2131) that, in volume, is under $3 that can tune analog, digital and QAM. It wouldn't be all the hard to imagine creating a device with a bunch of those coupled with NTSC modulators (or, I suppose, ways to recombine multiple streams into a QAM modulated channel). The main stumbling block would be dealing with encryption on all those channels simultaneously.
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Old 12-27-2007, 12:37 PM   #916
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It wouldn't be all the hard ....
Famous last words in this industry, I suspect.
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Old 12-27-2007, 02:35 PM   #917
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MicroTune has a chip (the MT2131) that, in volume, is under $3 that can tune analog, digital and QAM. It wouldn't be all the hard to imagine creating a device with a bunch of those coupled with NTSC modulators (or, I suppose, ways to recombine multiple streams into a QAM modulated channel). The main stumbling block would be dealing with encryption on all those channels simultaneously.
A couple of years back, Toshiba demonstrated simultaneous decoding of 48 SDTV streams (read from an HDD--see this) on the Cell processor, developed jointly by them, IBM and Sony and used most famously in the Playstation 3. Toshiba's interest in the processor was for general purpose multimedia content crunching in A/V devices; at this point, they're manufacturing the lion's share of them, having bought Sony's factory and picked up their PS3 demand as a supplier. I don't know what additional load decrypting the streams adds.
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Old 12-27-2007, 03:28 PM   #918
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(Someone needs to come up with a box that can simultaneously "tune" 75 digital basic/extended basic channels and blend them together as NTSC channels on coax--we about at the point where it can be done, but whether cheaply enough for this app is another matter).
http://www.broadlogic.com/tpix.htm
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Old 12-27-2007, 03:36 PM   #919
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Nice chip, also $300 each in quantity... just the chip. At least a year ago.

http://www.engadget.com/2006/11/06/b...secret-weapon/
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Old 12-27-2007, 05:42 PM   #920
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Very cool. Apparently BroadLogic demonstrated a "residential gateway" based on the chip at a CableLabs conference back in August (see this). A nice thing about this is that you'd only need one of them in a house--just put it in the attic (or wherever your cable comes in) and connect it between the incoming cable and the outlets in the rooms where you were using analog tuners. Any outlets to which you'd attached digital tuners and/or cable modems would need to stay on a clean line, but that should be easy enough.

I wonder if these gateways could be made addressable, allowing the addition of subscription SD digital content tiers like the "Digital Sports Tier", and "Digital Lifestyles Tier", as well as the premium channel tiers (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz), most elements of which are still SD? That could actually enhance service sales to analog-only or analog-mostly households.

In that article I linked, it gives a CEA estimate that there are an average of 3 analog televisions still in use per household. They are being replaced by digital televisions at a decent pace (estimated 16 million shipped this year), but it's gonna a while yet.
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Old 12-27-2007, 06:13 PM   #921
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The problem with the BroadLogic idea is that it's as expensive as providing every TV with a set top box. So the only advantage is whatever customer satisfaction is obtained from allowing people to continue with their old habits.

An alternative gateway approach would be to provide a limited number of simultaneous analog channels, like 4. For each analog TV you would have an RF remote control to select the channel. This might be a little cheaper than a set top box for each TV.
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Old 12-27-2007, 07:10 PM   #922
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Not practical

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But there's no reason to have a 1:1 relationship between broadcast channel modulators and nodes. That would be redundant, since you can modulate once and split the signal.
Hypothetically this would be possible if the entire QAM is devoted to non-switched channels, but in practice it's not practical. It costs as much to segregate the topology of the headend or hubsite into two sections with different topologies than to simply deploy a single topology for the entire site, and the maintenance and management costs are much lower, not to mention the engineering headaches are greatly reduced. Believe me, designing a headend is difficult enough when all the sources are symmetrical. Adding assymmetrical sources makes things really difficult.

What's worse, adding a new channel or moving a channel from one tier to another suddenly becomes very difficult and time consuming, requiring potentially many hours of truck rolls and channel down-time. If the same system is used for all digital programming, then adding, deleting, or moving a channel or changing from linear to SDV or vice-versa becomes a matter of a few mouse clicks.

Not only that, but one of the features which has CATV providers salivating is the prospect of automated channel upgrades. The user tunes to a channel he does not receive, presses a button and viola! he receives and is billed for a month of HBO or Showtime.
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Old 12-27-2007, 07:25 PM   #923
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The problem with the BroadLogic idea is that it's as expensive as providing every TV with a set top box. So the only advantage is whatever customer satisfaction is obtained from allowing people to continue with their old habits.
Again, you only need one of these boxes for all of the analog tuners in use in your household. In fact, you could package these things up with amplifiers and put them in the neighborhood distribution boxes, sharing one between several households, selling connections to them as "analog service options" (if you do that, you lose the possibility of selling pay SD digital channel tiers). I don't know about older installations, but the newer homes that I've lived in (built in the past twenty years) have 2-3 lines running in from the those boxes--it'd be simple to connect one or more of them to one of these "gateways" and distribute it to the appropriate outlets.

I'm also sure that pricing of these chips is falling as fast as BroadLogic can make it happen, isasmuch as they haven't sold any of them yet at that year-ago price.

Don't belittle the goal of "allowing people to continue with their old habits". It's called not messing with a satisfied customer. Try to force them to use boxes that they don't want to deal with and they'll take a long hard look at whether they need your service at all and what they might do as an alternative.
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Old 12-27-2007, 08:26 PM   #924
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Hypothetically this would be possible if the entire QAM is devoted to non-switched channels, but in practice it's not practical. It costs as much to segregate the topology of the headend or hubsite into two sections with different topologies than to simply deploy a single topology for the entire site, and the maintenance and management costs are much lower, not to mention the engineering headaches are greatly reduced. Believe me, designing a headend is difficult enough when all the sources are symmetrical. Adding assymmetrical sources makes things really difficult.

What's worse, adding a new channel or moving a channel from one tier to another suddenly becomes very difficult and time consuming, requiring potentially many hours of truck rolls and channel down-time. If the same system is used for all digital programming, then adding, deleting, or moving a channel or changing from linear to SDV or vice-versa becomes a matter of a few mouse clicks.

Not only that, but one of the features which has CATV providers salivating is the prospect of automated channel upgrades. The user tunes to a channel he does not receive, presses a button and viola! he receives and is billed for a month of HBO or Showtime.
I believe the concept is that by eliminating use of bandwidth in the cable plant for any analog signals one no longer needs SDV at all... at least such that the digital channels that would be placed on an analog cable in the home wouldn't be SDV.

I wonder if that chipset has the power to take HD digital signals and downconvert them to SD, thus further eliminating the need to carry SD channels if they have HD counterparts.
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Old 12-28-2007, 04:33 AM   #925
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Don't belittle the goal of "allowing people to continue with their old habits". It's called not messing with a satisfied customer. Try to force them to use boxes that they don't want to deal with and they'll take a long hard look at whether they need your service at all and what they might do as an alternative.
That's true, but at the same time, some customers would be happier with the set top box solution and the features it enables (like VOD available on every TV).

Several factors are gradually decreasing the cost of going "all digital":
1) Customers voluntarily subscribing to services requiring a STB
2) FCC tuner mandate having the side effect that almost all new TVs can receive unencrypted QAM
3) STBs getting cheaper
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Old 12-28-2007, 04:51 AM   #926
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That's true, but at the same time, some customers would be happier with the set top box solution and the features it enables (like VOD available on every TV).
Every last one of those customers is pounded with ads from the cable company telling them about the wonderful world awaiting them with a box. I gotta think that most people who haven't chosen to add boxes to their televisions have good and sufficient reasons. My housemate is perfectly satisfied with the 75-80 channels that she can tune from her little 20" television in the LR (expanded basic is included in the HOA fees here) and has no desire for VOD. Many people using analog cable now have televisions placed in locations so that they can watch a sitcom or the news while they prepare a meal or in the rooms of small children where they don't need anything more than PBS and Disney. Some of those have boxes in their family rooms and don't want or need them anywhere else. Some don't have any boxes and the major advantage of cable television for them is the fact that they don't have to buy or lease an STB or learn to use a remote control more complicated than a number keypad with CHAN UP/DOWN, VOL UP/DOWN, ON/OFF. Force them to use an STB and they're not going to be happy with you and they might as well take a look at the pricing of what the satellite and telco folks are offering.
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Old 12-28-2007, 06:30 AM   #927
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Every last one of those customers is pounded with ads from the cable company telling them about the wonderful world awaiting them with a box. I gotta think that most people who haven't chosen to add boxes to their televisions have good and sufficient reasons.
Yes, but the reason is not necessarily that they place a negative value on digital. For some, the only problem is that the value is less than the cost.
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Old 12-28-2007, 09:26 AM   #928
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No, it's a switched protocol, essentially identical to Ethernet switching on your home LAN if you have one. The main switch at the headend sends each packet to whatever nodes require the packet in question. Large systems like those here in San Antonio use smaller intermediate headends, but the paradigm is the same. If a particular data stream is not in use by a particular intermediate headend, it doesn't get sent to the intermediate site. Only the digital streams needed by the node are sent to the node.
You're confusing packet switched with circuit switched. It's more like a telephone line (circuit switched) than Ethernet (packet switched). Packet switched would be IPTV, not SDV.
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Old 12-28-2007, 12:43 PM   #929
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I believe the concept is that by eliminating use of bandwidth in the cable plant for any analog signals one no longer needs SDV at all... at least such that the digital channels that would be placed on an analog cable in the home wouldn't be SDV.
The bandwidth that would be freed up by dropping Analog is most likely being earmarked for things like faster broadband connections (ie: DOCSIS 3.0). By using SDV and dropping analog and switching to MPEG-4, the cable companies can free up a lot of bandwidth for use for other things. See this article.

Speaking of MPEG-4, I found this article which describes how using SDV can ease the transition to MPEG-4 (and save bandwidth) by providing MPEG-4 streams to those boxes that support it, but MPEG-2 streams to those that don't. All while keeping the same channel number for both streams. T

Last edited by morac : 12-28-2007 at 01:54 PM. Reason: added parenthesis to indicate MPEG-2 stream not always required.
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Old 12-28-2007, 01:34 PM   #930
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GREAT news!!! In October TWC added several new HD channels using SDV (Switched Digital Video--see thread on SDV if you are not familiar with it). Since the TiVo 3 cannot handle SDV, we were either force to do without the new channels or pay $10/month for an STB. Today I visited the TWC website and discovered that one of the channels (Golf/Versus) had been moved to the basic tier. A light went off in my brain that said if that was true, pehaps it was no longer using SDV and could be viewed and recorded by my TiVo. In fact that is true for that channel as well as all the other new HD channels.

Looks like TWC has seen the light about selecting SDV channels, and at least for now, new HD channels will have dedicated frequencies and will work with CableCARDs.
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