The introduction of digital television is making heavy demands on the network operated by the cable companies. Capacity is scarce and expensive. TNO has developed Utopic, a calculation method for calculating and planning frequency capacity in networks. With 1.8 million cable subscribers Essent Kabelcom (@Home), the second-largest cable company in the Netherlands, is expected to save millions of euros in terms of potential investment costs.

'We have used Utopic a great deal recently', explains Huub Nagel, Design Manager (North) at Essent Kabelcom.
'This calculation method can be used for all types of signal. Now that more and more digital television channels are being introduced, it's really important to utilise network capacity to the full. We want to increase the number of bits per channel without causing a noticeable loss of quality. With Utopic we can calculate exactly how far we can go without causing problems in the network.' Bram van den Ende and William de Waard of TNO Information and Communication Technology: 'Utopic enables cable companies to calculate how many extra digital TV channels the network can cope with, without affecting the quality of other channels or Internet access. If the calculations show that there is still sufficient capacity in the network, they don't need to extend the network, and that can save enormous sums in terms of investment.'

Higher speeds

According to Huub Nagel, Utopic is also an ideal method for assessing whether higher channel bandwidth is possible. With the help of Utopic, Essent Kabelcom was able to calculate whether it would be feasible to increase capacity from 40 to 50 megabits per second for each digital TV channel and the Internet. 'For customers, that means better quality digital television and faster Internet. But by sending more data per channel, we're also increasing the load on the network. Utopic is the only calculation method that tells us how far we can go. You can test this on a small scale in practice, but that's very risky without advance analysis. If you go over the limit, a component could fail and put the whole network out of action. Utopic showed us that, surprisingly, we could increase the speed of individual channels without compromising the quality of other channels. That's good news for our customers, and good news for us.'

This outcome offers Essent Kabelcom the prospect of significant savings. The network can be expanded at a much lower investment cost because the existing hardware can be utilised much more efficiently. That means a difference of millions of euros.