Starting Thursday, Americable in mainland Japan is upgrading to full digital service for residents of Yokosuka Naval Base, Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Sasebo Naval Base and the Ikego, Negishi and Hario Village housing areas, Americable president James H. Smith said in a news release Monday.

Smith said Americable is the first to offer digital service to U.S. military bases in the region "with the clarity and quality that only digital can deliver."

Americable is providing channels in several packages that offer up to 86 video channels and 40 music channels. However, customers must make arrangements to register and pick up new set-top boxes by using the company’s Web site:

Also new to the service is a switch to "real time" delivery of channels from the States. Previously, the channels were recorded on DVDs that were shipped to Americable for broadcast at a later date.

"We are streaming 53 U.S.-based channels over a dedicated fiber link ... to all Navy bases in mainland Japan," Smith announced.

That includes eight news and sports channels that are being shown live and 45 channels that are being time-delayed 10 hours so shows seen in the States during prime time will air at the same time in Japan.

Smith said Americable has also expanded its channel lineup.

The basic digital package has added 12 channels: the Food Channel, HGTV, Headline News, FX, Travel Channel, Noggin, TV Land, Country Music Television, Lifetime Movie Network, Fox Movie Channel, MTV 2 and Univision.

The basic package includes nine AFN channels, 35 video channels and 40 music channels.

The expanded digital package adds another 33 channels, and the premium package has been upgraded with Showtime, The Movie Channel, Flix and Showtime Family, Smith said.

Americable at one time provided service to all bases on Okinawa and at Yokota Air Base. Though it lost those contracts, the company has a franchise agreement with Navy installations that runs through 2011.

"This allowed us to justify the capital expense involved to completely upgrade our delivery capabilities and offer the first digital system in the region," Smith said.

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