The April, 2003 cover of Communications Technology did a great job of summarizing our article on planning the future of cable service delivery. The magazine -- the Official Trade Journal of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers -- shows a fortune cookie with the prediction "You will advance triumphantly by re-examining some long-held assumptions about network infrastructure." That's the essence of our article "Planning for the All-Digital Future--The End of Analog Television" (see http://www.cabletoday.com/ct2/0403_digital.asp ).
The theme of the article is that as the mandated US transition from analog to digital TV is completed, the rationale will disappear for many of the fundamental assumptions underlying how cable plants have been engineered. The basic physical infrastructure could handle lots more capacity and symmetry if some of these assumptions were reassessed; this could provide cable operators with significant competitive advantages. It's a careful balancing act, however, so that customers can be migrated gracefully from analog to digital, and investors can understand how past investments are leveraged. Since big industries don't create change overnight, the article suggests that the industry start working together now on the road map and technologies for true all-digital.
Although the article is directed to North American readers, it points out that some new systems in Europe and Asia are taking an all-fiber, all-digital, all-IP approach. Fastweb in Italy is one example.
In other countries, the digital transition is in various stages. In the U.K. the Independent Television Commission and the BBC just issued a joint report on "Progress Towards Digital Switchover". The target window for the nationwide switchover is 2006-2010. The report says that "over 40 per cent of households now have digital television and nearly all viewers have access to at least one delivery platform (Digital Terrestrial, Satellite or Cable)." The report suggests that the penetration could increase to between 58 and 78 per cent of homes by 2007 and that 95 per cent take-up could happen by 2010 if a number of "favourable developments" occur, such as the free-to-air digital terrestrial platform establishing itself successfully and BSkyB continuing to win new subscribers. Please see http://www.itc.org.uk/latest_news/press_releases/release.asp?release_id=693 (press release) and http://www.digitaltelevision.gov.uk/pdfs/ITC_BBC_switchover_report.pdf (report)