YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

LANDMARK CABLE DEAL : THE TECHNOLOGY : Buyout Highlights Attraction of Coaxial Wire

February 28, 1996|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — US West Inc.'s buyout of Continental Cablevision Inc. highlights the attraction of cable--not the TV service, but the wire.

Coaxial cable can transmit far more signals at once than phone wires. That extra capacity is coming into greater demand due to the growth of the Internet and other online computer services and perceived need for customized video services such as on-demand movies.

Major cable companies are upgrading systems throughout the country to pass through even more signals. In technical parlance, the upgrades take a system from 500 megahertz, enough for about 80 simultaneous TV channels, to 750 megahertz, or about 125 TV channels.

Only 11 systems serving about 900,000 people have finished that upgrade, according to a survey done by Nielsen Media Research last month. But Continental owns three of the 11--in Springfield, Mass.; West Haverstraw, N.Y.; and Lakewood.

The extra space doesn't have to be just for TV, however, and many cable companies are gearing up to provide access to the Internet or other online services to people who own personal computers.

Cable systems that aren't being upgraded as fast can still offer Internet access, though customers won't be able to send data back to the Internet as fast as they can on the improved systems.

Some cable companies are designing data services that use the coaxial cable to deliver information quickly and the phone wire to get information back at about the speed people now experience.

Cable companies have ordered more than 1 million cable modems, according to the National Cable TV Assn.

The most advanced modems can handle 10 million bits per second of information sent through a cable. The standard modem for PCs that hook up to telephone wires handles 28,800 bits per second.

Motorola Inc., the leading maker of such devices, will start delivering them to cable firms this summer, said James Phillips, vice president and general manager of the company's multimedia group.

Los Angeles Times Articles