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Cable/Video

BigBand Edge QAM Plays 1 GHz

9:00 AM -- BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) has baked in 1 GHz capabilities to its BEQ6000, a "universal" edge QAM that can share network resources among a wide range of digital cable applications, including broadcast video, switched digital video (SDV), and video-on-demand (VoD). (See BigBand QAM Plays 1 GHz.)

Enabling the gear to support the higher frequency range is increasingly important as MSOs expand bandwidth beyond 750 MHz or 860 MHz and tap that fresh spectrum for speedy Docsis 3.0 services and more hi-def and VoD content.

Although publicly traded MSOs don't like to talk much about this particular bandwidth "tool" due to the stigma it could carry on Wall Street, privately held MSOs like Cox Communications Inc. have been more upfront about their 1 GHz strategies. (See Cox Makes 1 GHz Moves .)

While all new digital cable boxes can tune to 1 GHz, it's rapidly becoming a key feature in the edge QAM -- a product that is central to a new CableLabs -specified Modular Headend Architecture (MHA). (See MSOs Unite Against Telcos at the Headend.)

Although BigBand is the first to boast 1 GHz capabilities in its edge QAM, several other vendors queried by Cable Digital News say they've already been there, done that.

Vecima Networks Inc. (Toronto: VCM), Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT), and LiquidxStream Systems Inc. all confirmed that their respective universal edge QAM products can support frequencies in the lofty range of 1 GHz. The spec sheet for Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)'s Apex 1000 edge QAM lists a center frequency range of 57 MHz to 999 MHz. We've posed the question to Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), maker of the D5 edge QAM, and should get an answer later today.

UPDATE: Arris called to confirm that its D5 currently can support up to 870 MHz, but there's a plan in place to add an extention to the hardware later this year that will bump it up to 1 GHz.

Among this group, Harmonic's edge QAM products have been 1 GHz-capable for more than a year. A 1 GHz edge QAM packs in an extra 140 MHz of capacity, equivalent to about 23 QAMs. That fresh headroom "can be used for new services like Docsis 3.0 or H.264 set-top boxes," notes Harmonic senior director of cable solutions and strategy Gil Katz.

So, while it's clear that supporting 1 GHz in the latest edge QAMs is important, it's simply table stakes at this point, considering its adoption by vendors in this competitive product category.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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