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01.25.2004
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Charter launches all-digital TV service

Multi-system cable operator Charter Communications has launched America’s first all-digital network in Long Beach, Calif., that delivers digital and analog programming over an existing HFC (hybrid fiber-coaxial) network.



Charter's digital compression system is powered by multiple DiviCom MV 50 variable bit-rate encoders and a third-generation DiviTrackXE closed loop statistical multiplexing system.

Charter said its new service incorporates a digital compression system from Harmonic's DiviCom division that encodes the entire program line-up and leverages digital program insertion system. The digital compression system, which is central to the service, is powered by multiple DiviCom MV 50 variable bit-rate encoders and a third-generation DiviTrackXE closed loop statistical multiplexing system. These CableLabs certified encoders embed the SCTE-35 compliant cue tones necessary to enable true digital program insertion.

Harmonic provides digital video, broadband optical networking and IP delivery systems to cable, satellite, telecom and broadcast network operators.

The compression capabilities of the Harmonic-based digital headend makes it possible to provision multiple SD and/or HDTV digital channels--each with a full resolution broadcast-quality picture-using the spectrum required to deliver a single analog channel, according to the company. Converting from analog to digital efficiently preserves channel capacity for more high definition television as well as targeted services including video-on-demand and specialized subscription packages.

Wayne Davis, Charter’s senior vice president of Engineering and Advanced Technology said that the all-digital delivery system will result in significant picture quality improvements. “The bandwidth savings made possible by Harmonic's digital video compression solution will allow the introduction of new services in a more expedient and economical way, often without needing to upgrade our network infrastructure.”

He said that the company’s new digital program insertion capability enables it to centralize the DiviCom compression encoders, while at the same time locally and dynamically insert ads. Thus, Charter said, both simplifies the process and makes the service “more relevant to the viewer and valuable to advertisers.” The service can be remotely and instantly activated, eliminating the need for a truck roll when adding a customer or service.

Yaron Simler, President of Harmonic’s Convergent Systems Division, said that an all-digital service like the one launched by Charter makes it possible to realize significant capital savings by using lower cost digital only set-top boxes. Entry-level digital set-tops that support broadcast, interactive and on-demand services cost approximately 50 percent less than comparable analog/digital set-tops. At the high-end, removing both the analog receiver and internal digital video compression subsystem from set-tops with a digital video recorder (DVR) yields a solid cost reduction.

In addition, the highly compressed MPEG-2 video distributed from the headend makes it possible for the DVR to store more content per gigabyte than in a mixed analog/digital service environment. When serving hundreds of thousands or millions of subscribers the aggregate savings are substantial.

For more information visit www.charter.com and www.harmonicinc.com.

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