Bedraggled bandwidth bamboozles biz channel
New technology Oceanic Time Warner Cable is deploying did not come in time for would-be viewers of Fox Business Network on the Big Island and Maui.
On those two islands, Oceanic was unable to offer the much-hyped network, as well as some other channels, because needed system upgrades won't be completed until next year.
The company added the new Fox channel to its digital tier on Oahu and Kauai, where the cable infrastructures are connected and can support the extra channels, said Alan Pollock, vice president of marketing. On the Big Island and Maui, the systems are separate, he said.
The technology Oceanic is working to upgrade sends just about every channel, about 300 of them, into a subscriber's cable box, filling the electronic pipeline that brings the service into homes.
"The computer (in the cable box) has a very small memory," which is filled up with all those channels, "so I can't bring any more channels in there, it's full," Pollock said.
The upgrade involves hardware and software and a technology known as switched digital video, which frees up room in the pipeline as well as memory in cable boxes' computers.
Viewership generally follows a kind of 80-20 rule, Pollock said. "About 80 percent of the people watch 20 percent of the channels."
Only the most-viewed channels will go automatically to the cable box, leaving it with "a lot of memory," so if a viewer switches to a less-watched channel, "it will zoom right in there."
In the meantime, the cable company is managing its bandwidth more efficiently, enabling it to "offer an unlimited amount of channels," Pollock said.
"We can actually offer more channels (than the satellite providers) because all we have to do is add server space," whereas satellites' capacity is limited.
Bandwidth has always been an issue, but it has become more critical as more bandwidth-hogging high-definition channels become available and as the number of households with high-definition television sets grows.
The switched digital technology can also be applied to data services, and at least one mainland company is looking to use it to quicken the speed of its Internet service, according to industry publication Multichannel News.
High-speed Internet service uses "a different part of the pipe," Pollock said, and Oceanic doesn't feel a need to enhance Roadrunner's speed at the moment.
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