Blog | MVPDs & Global Operators
January 6, 2016

Considerations for the Move to Digital and HD

Allison Olien, Senior Director

The old adage if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it is sage advice in many respects. However, applying this advice to technology upgrades can limit operations, capabilities, and ultimately profit. Though the process of upgrading technology often seems costly and complicated, it frequently opens doors to new profit and growth opportunities.

As an example, a significant number of cable operators in the U.S. have not upgraded to digital or HD operations and continue to maintain analog and SD-only headends. The reasons for this are wide and varied, but often justified. However, given the growth and demand for robust quality of experience, this approach must be reconsidered.

While moving to digital and HD requires upgrades in the plant, primarily for new receivers, they can be deployed over existing MPEG-2 equipment, negating the cost for a complete overhaul. This has a compounded beneficial effect on operations, as the life of much of the equipment is extended while at the same time gaining access to services that are in demand from subscribers. This combination positions operators for growth and unrealized profits and keeps them competitive in a tough market for subscriber share.


The Efficiency of Digital and HD

Transmitting and receiving digital HD signals is fundamentally more efficient than analog SD. For instance, one analog channel occupies the same amount of space in which 10-14 SD digital channels can be transmitted. Channel lineups can be expanded by a factor of at least ten without soaking up more bandwidth. This incredibly flexible means of upgrading allows for more channel and network offerings, or more bandwidth for premium services, such as VOD or improved broadband.

One question remains about digital HD upgrades: how is it deployed to the field? Here again the need for expensive STB deployment is not required. In most cases, existing and low-cost digital terminal adapters (DTAs) are capable of delivering digital and HD cable signals into subscribers’ homes. Used as a cable box, DTAs can utilize the ROVI guide, which offers a guide and navigation common in digital cable. Additionally, operators can roll out DVRs as needed when subscribers request them.

Upgrading or not upgrading is a choice for the time being. But the time is coming when it will either it will be more expensive to deliver analog or operators will run out of bandwidth. In light of the investment required to offer digital and HD, upgrade costs will be recouped and the transition will be more cost-effective in the long run with increased efficiency, more channel options, and the potential to offer expanded, higher-margin services. The upgrade not only positions operators for the here and now—as well as the future—of cable, but moving to digital drastically reduces signal piracy. It is never too soon to consider the digital and HD upgrade and how it can protect your operations and open new doors of opportunity for your business.