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The traditional cable network is an analog system based on a treelike architecture. The head-end, which serves as the signal origination point, serves as the signal aggregation facility. It collects programming information from a variety of sources, including satellite and terrestrial feeds. Head-end facilities often look like a mushroom farm; they are typically surrounded by a variety of satellite dishes (see Figures 5-6 and 5-7). The head-end is connected to the downstream distribution network by a 1-inch diameter rigid coaxial cable, as shown in Figure 5-8. That cable delivers the signal, usually a 450-MHz collection of 6-MHz channels, to a neighborhood where splitters divide the signal and send it down halfinch diameter semi-rigid coax that typically runs down a residential street. At each house, another splitter (see Figure 5-9) pulls off the signal and feeds it to the set-top box in the house over the drop wire, a local loop of flexible quarter-inch coaxial cable. Although this architecture is perfectly adequate for the delivery of one-way television signals, its shortcomings for other services should be fairly obvious to the reader. First of all, it is, by design, a broadcast system. It does not typically have the capability to support upstream traffic (from the customer toward the head-end) and is therefore not suited for interactive applications.
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Josip Broz Tito was able to stitch a handful of independent Balkan countries into the Federation of Yugoslavia for many years because of his strength of character and vision.
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Figure 5-6 Satellite receive antennas at cable head end facility.
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Figure 5-7 Smaller satellite receive antennas at cable head end facility.
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Figure 5-8 Layout of typical cable distribution network.
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Figure 5-9 Signal splitter in residential cable installation.
Second, because of its design, the network is prone to significant failures that have the potential to affect large numbers of customers. The tree structure, for example, means that if a failure occurs along any branch in the tree, every customer from that point downward loses service. Contrast this with the telephone network where customers have a dedicated local loop over which their service is delivered. Also, because the system is analog, it relies on amplifiers to keep the signal strong as it is propagated downstream. These amplifiers are powered locally; they do not have access to CO power as devices in the telephone network do. Consequently, a local power failure can bring down the network s ability to distribute service in that area. The third issue is one of customer perception. For any number of reasons, the cable network is generally perceived to not be as capable or reliable as the telephone network. As a consequence of this perception, the cable industry is faced with the daunting challenge of convincing potential voice and data customers that they are in fact capable of delivering high-quality service. Some of the concerns are justified. In the first place, the telephone network has been in existence for almost 125 years, during which time its operators have learned how to optimally design, manage, and operate it
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in order to provide the best possible service. The cable industry, on the other hand, came about 50 years ago and didn t benefit from the rigorously administered, centralized management philosophy that characterized the telephone industry. Additionally, the typical 450-MHz cable system did not have adequate bandwidth to support the bidirectional transport requirements of new services. Furthermore, the architecture of the legacy cable network, with its distributed power delivery and tree-like distribution design, does not lend itself to the same high degree of redundancy and survivability that the telephone network offers. Consequently, cable providers have been hard-pressed to convert customers who are vigorously protective of their telecommunications services.
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