Originally Posted by Free
I have both Cox, and Direct Tv, and I give the edge, in picture quality to Cox. Doesn't Cox have more bandwidth to play with than D*, so they will never need to give us HD Lite??
Sort of. It's partly a bandwidth issue concerning the entire service, and its partly a bandwidth issue in how things are divided up.
Currently, COX has about 500 MHz of forward bandwidth for analog, and another 250-500 for digital. As they build out the copper nodes, they are being replaced by higher bandwidth capability (fiber to the nodes already has enough bandwidth). That is, practically speaking, about 80 6MHz analog channels, and about 80 6MHz digital channels, so they have plenty of room to grow their digital channels, and when they get to the point that it is not enough, it will be time to begin retiring some of the high analog channels, so they can cannabalize the higher ones one-by-one to add digital ones, one-by-one. And they will also probably convert or receive many of those in MPEG-4, allowing possibly more than one service per channel (possibly moving one SD digital and one HD digital channel into a single 6 MHz berth, or maybe even more). That last step, if it comes, might mirror the issues that currently face DBS and cause some unwanted bit reduction, but maybe not.
It is also easy to take a 8VSB OTA channel that tops out at 14.5 Mb/s and squeeze that into a single QAM channel (still at MPEG-2), as QAM is more efficient than 8VSB in the first place, and 8VSB is broadcast with extra overhead and sometimes extra program streams, so channel for channel, a QAM channel will not have any restraints on remodulating an original SINGLE 8VSB channel.
This bandwidth availability also helps them with backhauled digital channels (what they receive by sat or fiber that they redistribute). It is the very comparable abundance of bandwidth vs. DBS that allows them (cable) to do VOD while DBS is still unable to do that.
DBS, on the other hand, currently finds it impractical to shoehorn a useable number of HD channels into band-limited transponders, so to up that number they down-rez them in the H dimension rather than bit starve them. It's (hopefully) a temporary compromise.
They also have but 500 MHz of bandwidth per satellite, for a total of 1500 for the main 3. They have to provide some 250 CONUS SD channels, as well as spot beam another 1500 LIL channels. Not much is left for HD. They are comparatively strapped for bandwidth vs. cable.
The new Ka sats will help by adding more bandwidth, and MPEG-4 will increase efficiency, so that they can keep pace and finally offer VOD, HD LIL, and hopefully more CONUS HD channels.
Short answer? DBS is currently behind the curve due to bandwidth, but that could change in the next couple of years with possible scenarios of them overtaking cable in that area. But the single advantage DBS used to have over cable (PQ) began to fade with DBS must-carry, and is becoming an even playing field as more services are delivered as digital, with leadership in providing HD at the forefront of that change, and currently tipping to cable.