Cable industry agrees on modem, set-top box standards

A cable industry consortium has announced an agreement on standards for digital set-top boxes and cable modems for North America.

A cable industry consortium has announced an agreement on standards for digital set-top boxes and cable modems for North America. The specification will let set-top terminals and data modems built by different vendors interoperate on the same cable system, according to officials at Cable Television Laboratories, a research consortium that represents 85% of North American cable operators.

The specification covers how cable television systems will transport digital and video data, and it will help manufacturers produce digital set-top boxes and cable modems quickly and cost-effectively, officials say. The specification also incorporates an International Telecommunications Union standard, ITU-TJ.83 Annex B, which calls for 64 and 256 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM), officials say.

The use of 64 QAM lets operators fit four to six channels in the space that occupies one channel today, according to Don Dulchinos, director of business development at Cable Television Laboratories. The exact number of channels depends on the programme, Dulchinos says. For example, a sports programme or other programme with a lot of movement, would cut back the usable number of channels, he says.

For users, the specification will result in more channels and more choices, while for the cable companies, "it's expanding their revenue streams by allowing the introduction of new services," Dulchinos says.

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