Putting DTV on cable

Motorola digital receiver with ATSC off-air content tuningCableNET celebrated its 15th anniversary this year in Las Vegas. As it has in year’s past, this educational technology showcase highlighted a wide variety of next-generation broadband technologies and services that cable operators are expected to deliver to consumers in the near term.

One technology popped out at me, since it has some interesting implications: a Motorola digital set-top box with ATSC off-air content tuning. As part of the Digital Television Transition, broadcasters have switched over to digital television and have also created multicast signals. Cable has been carrying these signals, with local cable systems carrying the digital signal of 788 unique broadcast stations as of June 2006, eight-and-a-half times the amount in January 2003, when 92 such stations were carried.

What you see in the photo is the external version of the Motorola device, which is a little larger than a pack of gum. It has a tuner, a demodulator and a USB interface. You connect an antenna to it and then it maps the off-air signals to your channel line-up. As you tune the channels, you can switch seamlessly from a cable channel to an off-air signal. Thanks to digital broadcasting, reception technology has improved. With the use of newer antennas and amplifiers, consumers would have an easier time of getting DTV reception.


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