Can cable keep up without big infrastructure expenditures?

The unsettling tension between cable, satellite, and now FTTH providers is growing ever tighter, and the delivery of HD channels, on-demand content, and internet services through aging coax pipelines is leaving little room for expansion. While some analysts are suggesting that cable companies should be prepared to spend big bucks in order to maintain their current service levels -- especially considering the seemingly imminent additions of HD content and higher-high-speed internet services -- they may not have to bust out that checkbook so soon. It's no secret that Verizon alone has spent $20 billion in fiber optic deployment in order to get FiOS services to various parts of the country, and cable providers can't exactly afford to sit around and get leapfrogged. Reportedly among the various suggestions (that don't involve just throwing down for a larger infrastructure) is one that focuses on changing the way channels are delivered entirely, requiring no expansion whatsoever. The (relatively) antiquated analog stations aren't doing cable companies any favors, and as they begin to (presumably) phase out in favor of the leaner, meaner digital flavor, the lines can start to breathe a bit easier. But probably more important than the switch to digital is, well, switched digital -- in a switched system, only the channel that's currently being viewed is sent out (much like current IPTV installments), thus freeing up loads of bandwidth. Apparently this efficient design allows for "hundreds of stations" to be available at any given time, while giving providers one less reason to crack open the piggy bank for fear of clogged pipes. It's fairly obvious that cable companies still have a firm, albeit loosening, grip on the television market, and until this newfangled FTTH thing can reach a few more folks (or Google breaks out a dark-fiber solution of its own), it's cable or bust for most of us.

[Via Ars Technica]