Scientific-Atlanta Eases Transition to HDTV

Until prices for HDTV receivers come down from the stratosphere and high-def programming is available full-time, most viewers will be watching the new format on legacy TVs with the aid of set-top converter boxes. Hearing the clarion call of opportunity, Scientific-Atlanta, Inc. has introduced a line of products to help meet the early demand for HDTV. Among these products is a new HD version of their Explorer 2000 advanced digital set-top box, which will be available in January. This "all-formats" decoder will translate incoming HDTV signals into NTSC video, easing a myriad of consumers into the coming age of digital television.

An additional project currently under development by Scientific-Atlanta is an IEEE 1394 FireWire interface standard for passing HD signals through digital set-top boxes. FireWire is a high-speed equipment-connection system that has won widespread approval among computer-hardware manufacturers, and it was recently specified by Cable Television Laboratories, Inc. (CableLabs) as the link between OpenCable advanced digital set-top boxes and devices such as television sets and DVD players. Scientific-Atlanta recently demonstrated working versions of FireWire-equipped products and will manufacture digital set-tops incorporating the interface once the specifications have been finalized.

Scientific-Atlanta is also developing products for broadcasters, cable suppliers, and satellite services that will speed the deployment of digital television networks. These encoders and decoders perform essential operations for the accurate delivery of signals. One such product is the company's PowerVu HD encoding and decoding system, which will enable the viewing of HDTV signals on next-generation digital televisions. Other HDTV-related products include the PowerVu HD and PowerVu Plus integrated digital-video compression system.

The company's fiber-optic network components include the Prisma Digital Transport (DT) system and Prisma Dense Wave Division Multiplexing (DWDM) platform, which is claimed to increase network bandwidth and transport efficiency by accommodating up to eight times the normal traffic on a single fiber-optic cable. The Model SP-1D signal processor lets cable operators deliver broadcast DTV programming over cable.

The PBS television network has selected Scientific-Atlanta's PowerVu Plus high-definition and standard-definition digital-video compression system for satellite distribution of its upcoming DTV programming. The PowerVu Plus system is the fourth generation of Scientific-Atlanta's digital-video compression products. An earlier version of this technology is used in more than 300 systems distributing over 1000 channels of digital programming into 170 countries around the globe.

Scientific-Atlanta, long a supporter of the OpenCable technical standards, has stated that HDTV transmission requires an "end-to-end digital network solution." According to Jim McDonald, SA's president and CEO, "Our intent is to expand our leadership role in digital TV by supporting HDTV every step of the way, from the broadcasting and delivery of HDTV to passing signals through our set-tops."