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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For those of us who have be lamenting the lack of alternate suppliers to S/A's 3100 HD box, the following news comes via the 2002 NCTA Cable show:

From Pace: "Pace unveils new high-def home gateway

Pace Micro Technology is debuting its 550 HD home gateway at the National Show. The unit provides secured digital connections, and resolution flexibility for content and display devices that is cost-effective for operators, according to Pace.


The Pace 550 HD features DVI 1.0 and IEEE 1394-standards-based, secure digital connections for digital television monitors and consumer peripheral devices. The unit's hardware and software architecture have been specifically designed to enable the secure delivery of both SDTV and HDTV content, according to the company.


The new home gateway technology works for both standard definition and high definition television sets (480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i output resolutions), and supports high definition video and graphics scaling for on-screen guides.


The 550 HD also scales content to fit both 4:3 and 16:9 displays, thus minimizing the use of letterbox and pillarbox bars."


From Pioneer: "Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. has introduced the Voyager 3511HD set-top box, designed to meet the demand for high definition television.

The company is showing the set-top, along with Pioneer Digital Technologies Inc.'s Passport 3.0 Navigation Suite, in its booth at the National Show.

The new set-top, which will begin shipping late this year, offers high definition decoding capabilities, advanced dual processing power, flexible memory configurations of up to 32 MB of SDRAM memory, a built-in ATSC digital decoder and video outputs that can pass native 1080i signals to a video display, or downconvert those signals based on display limitations.

Some additional news:

From S/A: Scientific-Atlanta says that in its first full quarter of volume shipments, more than 38,000 of its Explorer 3100HD digital interactive set-tops were delivered to six North American cable operators in an attempt to meet the expected consumer demand for HDTV. The Explorer 3100HD digital interactive set-top is designed to deliver both high definition and interactive TV services such as VOD and SVOD through a single device.



And to think in December we were having to beg for an extra 100 hand-built 2000HD's.
 

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Greg,


Hope you got to go to the national show instead of being "stuck" in Orlando or Tampa. You wouldn't happen to know whether the Pace or Pioneer boxes have analog component outputs, would you? If they just have DVI and IEEE1394 it means they aren't compatible with >95% of the existing base of ~2.6 million HDTVs. Inquiring minds want to know.:confused:


Jim
 

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Any news on pvr functions for the scientific atlanta boxes? SD or HD?
 

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It's pretty much assumed any new cable STB will have DVI and possibly 1394.


The important questions today are:


1) Does it have HDTV analog output? Of course analog is subject to downrezzing but does the unit at least output analog HDTV in full reslution when not required to constrain?


2) If 1394 is included, does it allow recording to DVHS when authorized by the content provider?


These questions are issues within themselves but what we don't want is a cable operator to say, "We don't care what HBO's policy is. We will not allow our customers to record contect from our system". Some of these mega corporation cable companies these day are just that arrogant.
 

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Thanks for taking the time to summarize the latest converters, Greg. Plowed through the writeups yesterday at http://pub1.ezboard.com/fdigitaltele...isionnewsforum moderated by Lee Wood. There are links back to mfgr's sites, I believe, if anyone views postings for May 7th. (Use that link daily, but it didn't work posted here, although there's enough there to get anyone to it. Hmmm. The server edited it, so here's the section on my link following ezboard.com: fdigitaltelevisionhdtvforumhdtvdigitaltelevisionnewsforum -- John

P.S. Further hmm. Must be sunspots today. The last few characters are separated from the body of the link, even though no space shows in the forum's edit mode.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hmm...I hope I answer everyone's question...

For Jimbo: National show -- no such luck. I've temporarily taken off my TWC employee badge and replaced it with my "Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve" collar devices. Somehow, I don't think the Army Colonel I work for would have been too supportive of me running off to a cable show. But I'll be back in my old job by the end of the year. The worst part is my boss received the NCTA's National "Vanguard" award for being the top "Cable Operations" manager in the country last night -- I would have liked to be there. Alas, duty calls.


Regarding analog vice DVI: I don't know. But I do know that these boxes have been in development for some time, and I hadn't heard any push toward DVI or Firewire, much less as the exclusive output. Certainly, the 3100HD, against which these will compete, doesn't even do DVI or Firewire, and those are going to be in the field for a while. (But the next ones certainly should.)

For PTS: I've never seen anything that would suggest that, but others are better informed than I. Perhaps John Mason could better address this question.

For Globefood: S/A's announcement also included (I dropped it from my previous post thinking it was off-topic) the debut of their 8000 series box:


"S-A has also announced its inaugural shipment of its new Explorer 8000 home entertainment servers for customer trials. The server gives consumers the ability to pause live TV, record one channel while watching another, record two channels and play back another simultaneously, and watch picture-in-picture on any consumer television set.


The PVR aboard the Explorer 8000 home entertainment server will be powered by an 80-gigabyte hard drive and will be capable of recording up to 50 hours of programming without the need for a phone line."


This was supposed to have an HD option. I don't know however, if cable MSO's have figured out a decent business model to deploy this -- how do we "sell" a PVR service?

For Glimmie: Again, I don't know for sure what the boxes include, but I can't see us (or other MSO's) blocking content recording when a content provider doesn't mind. Given the competitive nature of our business today, we can't afford to. We don't copy protect any of our products now, so I don't know why we would.


That said, I imagine we'll have some content providers dictating terms of carriage to us, and we may have no choice but to comply.

For Barry928: Who makes the headend equipment has much less to do with compatibility than what Operating System (OS) the Digital Network Controller is running. We run Pioneer's Passport software, which licenses S/A "Power TV" technology. We can run S/A, Pioneer, or Pace boxes on our system, which helps us keep our box costs competitive. We already run "SD" boxes from all three companies.


Hope that answers it.
 

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I have several questions raised by some of the links in this thread, but first and foremost based on what I can gather from the cable industry's position indicated in the following white paper - The Transition to Digital Television - is what is the HD content the cable companies are planning to provide via the new boxes if they were in place? Since they still seem to still be firmly resisting dual-carry of analog and HD local broadcasts, what "compelling digital content" do they plan to transmit? I can only say that what I'm currently able to get on "digital" cable is so far from compelling that I dropped all the "digital" channels from my cable subscription as they were next to worthless. To me as the viewer anyway - to the cable company who is doubtless getting paid by those channels to be carried I'm sure they represent additional revenue. Of course that's one of my problems with the cable situation. They keep jacking up the bill and justifying it by offering me lots more channels - none of which I have any interest in watching - and claiming that they're serving customer demand for more channels when they're clearly interested not in serving the customer but in adding new revenue streams. When I request HDTV the cable company's standard reply is - well you can read it here: Adelphia Cables attitude on HDTV


- Dale
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Todd H,


Unfortunately, that hasn't exactly worked for Tivo. Everything I've read says that those who have one, love it. But they can't sell nearly as many as they predicted -- why not. I don't think we understand it fully yet.


There are some in the industry, myself included, that think the future of PVR is to keep the hard drive in our headend (vice your settop) and deliver the content "on demand" using the same technology that enables VOD. It's a long story, but the places that could go are endless, including leading to the end of scheduled programming as we know it, with all content delivered "on demand". Lots of lawyers in the way however.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Dale,


I don't necessarily agree that the cable industry is firmly committed to not carrying the local digital broadcast channels. TWC in Central Florida, where I normally work, is carrying ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, WB, and PBS. We were carrying CBS before they even had a tower up, paying big $ to bring the signal in on Fiber to get the HD superbowl to our 300 HD customers at the time. The PBS affiliate won't have the funds to do HD for years, yet we've enabled them to get a HD signal to their patrons. Heck, we're even carrying the local non-widescreen FOX signal.


What the cable industry, in general, has been opposed to, is the mandatory (must-carry) carriage of duplicate analog and digital signals, or of non-compelling digital programming. If the programming is just a 480i version of what's on the analog broadcast, that isn't worth burning the spectrum, especially at the expense of the 99.5% of our customers who don't have digital televisions who could have another compelling channel. We have demonstrated that we find HD (true HD) compelling, and we carry it -- without being forced to, in "win-win" cooperation with our local broadcasters.


I understand that we've added a lot of channels that you don't care about. We carry a lot that I don't care about. But generally somebody does. We listen to customers, we do focus groups, and we don't waste spectrum on programming nobody wants. We can't afford to. The only way a network could afford to pay us to carry it, is if they were selling enough advertising to enable them to make a profit. But if nobody's watching it, nobody is going to buy advertising. The only channels I know that pay for carriage are the shopping networks and some of the religious networks, and those are completely different business models.


If you really think about it, what drives the local broadcaster to do HD, vice multicasting? I'd like to think the promise of cable carriage, vice non-carriage, nudges them toward doing HD, which we all want. (Yeah, I know, we're also doing FOX but that's a long story. Anyone -- I've been out of town -- is WOFL doing widescreen yet?)


Finally, the cable industry is far from homogeneous. Policies of one company are very different from others. TWC is doing HD in most of our divisions, and that will only increase as the availability of boxes grows. I've personally heard the Chairman of TWC, Glenn Britt, say that HD is important to the company -- we'll make it work.
 

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Greg,


Thanks for the reply. You stated
Quote:
Finally, the cable industry is far from homogeneous. Policies of one company are very different from others.
and of course that's correct. While your company and others may be doing everything right, many more are not. And since I live in CA, what's happening in central FL doesn't do a whole lot for me except make me jealous. Regardless of what your company is doing, I'm unaware of any cable company in the greater LA area that is retransmitting any, much less all of the HD (not SD) content that is being broadcast in the market that probably has more OTA HD than anywhere else in the country. Unfortunately for me I live in an area where OTA HD reception ain't gonna happen. I've already tried. The "compelling content" would seem to be available, but absent forced "must carry" the local cable companies just don't seem to be interested in providing it. And that story from what I've seen on this forum is more common than the reverse - you guys notwithstanding. I don't want to just beat up the cable companies - I want more HD from the networks too. Some of them are responding, others aren't. BUt there's too much there now for the cable companies to hide behind the broadcasters as the problem. They have to get off the dime to move this thing forward and up to now they haven't. The recent agreement to come up with something next year is pretty weak, has a lot of holes and still looks like foot dragging to me.


- Dale
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by gmclaughlin


Anyone -- I've been out of town -- is WOFL doing widescreen yet?)

WOFL replaced that crappy old 480i encoder right after you left with a 1080i unit to transmit the 480p FOX signal in high resolution widescreen. (which somehow is the same as DVD resolution)
 

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Gregg - always good to hear from you. Two questions:


1) Will TWC - Central Fl try any of the brands you mentioned, at least as tests? I would be glad to get something other than SA. :)


2) Any info on getting H-Net? We really need that HD channel.


Don S.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Dale,


I'm well aware that LA is a big place, but I'm pretty (not 100%) sure our LA division is doing HD. Of course, that doesn't help you if TWC doesn't serve your neighborhood, as there are at least 3 cable companies in the portions of LA. But I think the NCTA's announcement that cable companies have agreed to do HD (although delayed) is good news. While it seems that it was announced only in response to Chmn Powell's demands, I think the timing has more to do with box availability, now that more manufacturers are going to have boxes available. I know that doesn't help you in the short term, but it'll come. None of these guys wanted to deal with the hassles we endured deploying HD without sufficient quantities of, or fully tested, boxes. We, on the other hand, thought our customers felt it was important, and we thought they'd understand if we explained why. That's why I started posting here.



Impala,


I am 100% sure that we'll be at least testing, if not, buying and deploying, boxes from both Pioneer and Pace. We don't like being dependent upon one source, because we have no leverage. That's why we deploy SD boxes from all three already, despite the hassels in warehousing and maintenance (greatly easier with just one box).


I don't know much about our current programming efforts, but until HDNet decides to sell to us, there's nothing we can do. We've made the inquiries at every opportunity. Hopefully HDNet's expansion will break something loose.



Barry928,


Just to make sure I understand your post -- is WOFL upconverting 480p Widescreen to 1080i widescreen? I sure didn't see that coming. (I need to get back to my real life).
 

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Greg,


You read it correctly 480p converted to 1080i. If the station gets traded or sold to CBS or NBC in the future they are ready to go. I thought 720p would have been a better choice.
 

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Greg,


I'm not actually in LA - Yorba Linda is in Orange County about 50 miles southeast of LA as the crow flies, but I'm reasonably sure that I'm correct in stating that NO cable company serving either LA or Orange County is retransmitting the networks' OTA HD being broadcast from Mt. Wilson which is the content I'm interested in seeing. If I wanted to see upconverted movies in HD I guess I could sign up for DBS but I really don't see the advantage of that over DVD. Any prospect for actually getting HD via cable will apparently have to await a change of ownership as my local cable company - Adelphia - has been more interested in siphoning off dollars a la Enron than in making the investment in providing HD. Fortunately, that may be coming as this article in yesterday's LA Times - Adelphia to Solicit Bids for Cable Systems - indicates that they're putting some of their LA area business up for sale. I can only hope that my area is included AND that the new ownership will be more interested in HD than Adelphia. Given that NO other cable company in the area is doing any more than Adelphia now however, I'll believe it when I see it.


BTW, since you're in the business maybe you can provide a technical answer to this question for me. The cable companies (and you've echoed this) keep saying that it's too big a burden for them to carry duplicate analog and digital channels of the same content. Why would they have to? I thought that when the transition from analog to digital was originally proposed, the idea was that people owning current analog NTSC sets would not HAVE to replace them with digital by 2006 (when the broadcast conversion was supposed to be complete) because STBs would be available to downconvert the digital back to NTSC for display on existing analog sets. Why can't a cable STB put out the digital video on its digital and/or analog HD outputs and convert it to NTSC on another output for older sets, thus removing the need for dual carry? I'm clearly missing something, but what?


Dale
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Dale,


While your question is technically correct (essentially, downconverting digital video in a 256 QAM modulated, MPEG stream to analog rf is what our current non-HD digital cable boxes do), it is the economics of the situation that causes the problem. While the participants of this site are obviously very positive about digital television, the VAST majority of our customers haven't yet gone digital. An AOL exec once asked me why, if digital cable allowed us to do such wonderful things, in such a small amount of bandwidth (12 digital channels occupy the same spectrum as 1 analog channel), why didn't we go all digital?


I pulled out a calculator, and quickly whipped up a rough number. It would cost us nearly $190 million dollars to put ONE digital box in the homes of our customers in Central Florida who don't already have one. And that would only allow them to do digital on one television. Most people keep their old televisions and put them in other rooms, so the number might well be $500 million...and that's just for one division in the company, serving 1.15% of the television households in the US. And, oh by the way, we'll have to replace those boxes every 5 years or so as they get obsolete.


Finally, the FCC requires us to provide "lifeline" cable service (10-15 basic channels at a highly regulated minimum price) to anybody who requests it. We couldn't afford to put a box in those households for the price we're paid.


2006 is going to be an interesting time. There may very well be a big business opportunity in building digital downconverters.
 

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Greg,


Ok, let me get this straight. Approximately 70% of US viewers get their TV reception strictly through cable (for multiple TVs per house). You've indicated that it's uneconomic for you the cable companies to provide either dual-carry or only digital for broadcast HD. And therefore you - the cable companies - won't do it. So how are the 70% of the market that receive TV via cable supposed to view broadcast HD again? Yet the government has edicted that analog transmission must cease and the spectrum be returned by 2006. And the cable companies (I believe this is true, you can correct me if I'm wrong) have committed to carry the digital broadcast at least at the point at which the spectrum is returned - presumably by 2006 - if not before. Further, the government has stated that owners of analog TVs will be able to continue to display the digital transmissions on their analog sets for some as yet unspecified time following the cessation of the analog broadcasts. I think we can safely assume that the majority of TV sets will still be analog at that point. So it appears that you are committed to to providing those STBs, uneconomic or not. How are we going to get there from here? What is the plan? There seems to be a major disconnect here.


BTW, I don't understand your $190 million figure. I'm not sure how many subscribers that represents, but given the technology already exists as you say - probably in a chipset - it should be relatively cheap produced in the numbers we're talking about (i.e. the entire US). After all, you're already moving your customers to digital now that don't have HD sets. For you, what's the difference between moving them to an HD-capable digital STB and a non-HD capable digital STB?


Dale
 
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