Coaxial Cable Television Corp. is planning an April 1 (no joke) shut-off of analog video as the final part of converting to all-digital delivery.

The northwest Pennsylvania-based operator has worked with Transparent Video Systems on this project for two years, buying TVS multiplexers and other headend equipment, along with 10,000 digital boxes for its 4,000 subscribers.

Coaxial General Manager Chris Lovell said the capital expenditure on this project was $1.5 million, which compared to $3.5-4.0 million it would have taken to upgrade his 550 MHz plant to 875 MHz or 1 GHz.

"We saved a lot of money," Lovell said.

Lovell also mentioned operational savings, such as reduced electricity use and the elimination of payments to TV Guide. (TVS set-tops come with an embedded guide.) The reclamation payoff seems no less significant: Coaxial is now using only 230 MHz of its spectrum, leaving another 300-plus MHz for growth.

"My message to smaller operators is that you don’t have to rebuild," Lovell said.

Interviewed at this week’s NCTC Winter Educational Conference in Charlotte, NC, Lovell said he had converted 3,400 customers to date – achieving a 90 percent success rate on self-installs. (For more on the WEC, click here.)

Lovell said one key to Coaxial’s customer satisfaction to date has been moving all of the digital QAMs into the mid-to-high bands. He said Coaxial’s policy of giving customers the set-tops – and remotes – also distinguishes its approach from that of larger cable operators, "who forget about the customer."

Lovell dismissed the need to retain an analog channel for test and measurement purposes, a topic discussed by CT Senior Technology Editor Ron Hranac in a recent column (click here), but admitted that he would continue to transmit four pilot analog channels for purposes of automatic gain control (AGC).

For its part, TVS announced four more customers for its Challenge all-digital platforms: Guyana-based Quark Communications; the City of Barnesville, USA Companies and EasyTel. It also unveiled an RF-to-USB "Digital Bridge" device designed to connect multiple consumer electronics devices to for-pay TV services.

The miniature device, which is slated for Q3 general availability, contains an over-the-air tuner, a demodulator, a decryption and encryption chip and a removable mini SD-CAS card slot.

– Jonathan Tombes

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