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Beyond the DTA – The Tech behind the Cable Transition to All-Digital

Even as the broadcast digital transition date nears, cable operators are in varying stages of moving to all-digital transmissions.  The buzz around digital transport adapters started back in the spring, and we’ve seen updates since then about how operators plan to market and distribute DTAs to support their analog-tier subscribers. However, DTAs, which are essentially stripped-down set-tops with no conditional access technology, are only part of the transition story. At the back end of the cable network sits the Digital Access Controller. The DTASs don’t work alone. They require support from the DAC to deliver all-digital service to analog homes and to enable the all-digital conversion of the cable plant.

I talked to Motorola’s Chris Poli recently to find out how the Motorola DAC is being updated for the new DTAs. Poli told me that the DAC has to be able to perform three major functions:

  1. Provide standards-based system information such as operator channel maps (data must be SCTE-65 compliant)
  2. Provision individual DTAs based on a subscriber’s video service package Turn on/off individual DTAs
  3. Support code downloads for software updates over an in-band stream to the DTA

In short, the DAC has to be able to communicate with DTAs in consumer homes to turn on cable service and support basic upgrades and service changes.

There is good news for consumers among the technical details. First, the updates to the Motorola DAC enable it to support a range of different DTA models. While the company would love for everyone to purchase only Motorola DTAs, the fact is that opreators are buying from multiple vendors. Luckily that doesn’t mean that different equipment is needed on the infrastructure side to communicate with each brand of DTA an operator rolls out.

Second, the in-band communication between the Motorola DAC and end-user DTAs means that consumers should be able to plug in a DTA at home without a house call from the cable guy. The remote provisioning function allows operators to turn on service without stopping by for a visit.

3 Responses

  1. Do they have A/V outputs so you can get stereo sound out of digital channels? Or will there be a BTSC encoder and pass stereo sound over Ch 3 / 4 RF?

    I noticed you crossed one section out about addressability. So the DAC can only turn them on and off, not change channel packages? I guess that makes sense, it’s just really for the B2 tier when it goes all digital.

  2. [...] the broadcast digital TV transition takes place next month, cable’s switch to all-digital is on a different timeline altogether. While some cable operators have already made the digital transition, many are still transmitting [...]

  3. [...] provides several new functions including (but not limited to) support for interactive applications, DTA (digital terminal adapter) deployments, and code downloads for virtual channel maps across a wide range of device types including [...]

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