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A Digital Message for Foxtel

As an avid TV watcher and recent convert to digital free-to-air, I can understand the frustrations of a number of big apartment buildings who’ve contacted me about their eagerness to switch their owners on to Foxtel Digital – but who’ve baulked at the massive expense of being able to do so.

The buildings have all been quoted between $20,000 and $120,000 to install the sophisticated cabling necessary to drag themselves into the all-singing, all-dancing digital pay TV future. While the price depends on the size, and type, of your block, it also – infuriatingly – seems to depend on who you ask.

Many have received different answers each time they’ve phoned the Department of Smoke and Mirrors at Foxtel to find out. It comes as no surprise then that some are reluctant to shell out the big bucks, especially with rumours flying around that new TV technology, like an extension of wireless and DSL broadband, that will make such cabling redundant, could be just around the corner.

Contacting Foxtel for a definitive answer, however, they agreed they were “looking at a range of options to assist in the connection of multi-dwelling units, including IPTV – a way of delivering television through an internal intranet system”. But, said corporate spokesperson Rebecca Melkman, that could all be a long way off. “There’s no time frame,” she insisted.

For those who can’t afford all the cabling, however, she offered a cheaper alternative: a product called Foxtel Digital Lite which can run on existing cabling and has most of the benefits of the full digital service with the exception of some of the interactive features and a few new channels (like the Christian Channel).

But don’t rush off trying to find out about it on the Foxtel website – as far as it’s concerned, Digital Lite doesn’t exist. So what’s the deal? Foxtel analogue is due to switch off in a year’s time anyway so why featherbed the full digital service at the expense of large apartment buildings?

Just to confuse the issue, I’m told that Foxtel’s satellite service is already digital too, even though it carries the old analogue programmes.

Rebecca (tel 9200 1000) says she can advise buildings on the best options, so feel free to try her. But while Digital pay TV is great, don’t let your building shell out megabucks on new cabling until you’ve checked out all the options, obvious and hidden, present and future.

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