Over the next 5 years we'll see many changes. So I think we should be very carefull with statements that include" "there will never be..." or "D* will not drop/change/switch..." or "such and such will never go HD". We know that many D* sats will reach EOL and all broadcast channels will be digital. We can just bet that most cable channels will likely go digital cuz all the cable companies and dbs providers will want digital not analog (and most will be at least widescreen too).
Along this transition process (that started more than 8 years ago) we'll see lots of things that will make us scratch our heads and say "huh? Why'd dey do dat?"
Will we see MPEG4 on ku frequencies someday? Maybe--if D* wants to keep the ku licenses. Or will we see D* surrender their ku licenses?
At some point every STB will be replaced. Whether it will be by attrition or by active replacement plan, I don't know. But they all will be replaced. I wonder if D*, E*, and cable will qualify for part of the $3B replacement monies for the DTV transition?
What does Mpeg4 and their KU license have to do with each other??Do you somehow beleive the FCC mandate for "digital" programming has ANYTHING to do with Cable or Satellite providers... or Standard Definition programming?? Because, neither is the case... ALL DirecTV programming is digitial and always has been, and their licenses are not threatened, and likely never will be. As for cable they do not operate in the public domain... they have a closed system that does not use public airwaves... so if they chose to keep analog transmissions for some of their channels (even though it is not likely) they could.
Also... it seems you are confusing the Digital Conversion requirements of the local broadcast channels with HDTV conversions. While they for the most part are going together... they are not one in the same, and the FCC has no requirements for broadcasts to be made in HD. They just want the bandwidth freed up. 99% of all programming will still be in SD for the forseeable future... regardless of if it is digital or not.