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Cable/Video

BigBand Plots Plans for Comcast's CMAP

NEW ORLEANS -- SCTE Cable-Tec Expo -- BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) is beefing up its edge QAM density using a new blade that plugs into a larger media services chassis and appears also to fit snugly with Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s vision for the super-dense Converged Multiservice Access Platform, or CMAP.

Rather than launching a new, discrete edge QAM, BigBand's latest product, which supports up to 40 QAMs per port, is a blade for its Media Services Platform (MSP), which is initially being used for video ad splicing. BigBand says a fully equipped MSP2800 (12 QAM slots) could support more than 3,800 QAMs , and the smaller MSP1200 (five QAM slots) could handle in excess of 1,200. (See BigBand QAM Adds Density.)

Paul Crann, BigBand's SVP of product line management, reasons that the pizza-box QAM scalability model "eventually is going to hit a wall," as cable operators deepen capacity to handle a growing number of unicast and multicast video services. He also suggests that operators may also prefer to reduce complexity and interoperability issues by going with a more integrated, one-box approach that bakes in multiple apps while providing redundancy.

That's an interesting observation from a company that has made a lot of hay on pizza-box QAMs. And it's also a veiled shot at competitors such as Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) and LiquidxStream Systems Inc. , which have developed edge QAMs that, at 36 QAMs per port, come the closest to matching the port densities offered in BigBand's new product. (See Harmonic Lays Claim to Edge QAM Density Crown .)

But BigBand can turn the blade into a standalone QAM if that's what a customer wants. "It's just sheet metal. The line card itself is… self-contained," Crann says.

Still, BigBand hopes the denser QAM and the new QAM interface will help drive MSP chassis shipments.

That product might also fit with Comcast's CMAP project and its aims to combine QAM and cable modem termination system (CMTS) functions. (See Time Warner Cable Hints at Video CDN Plan , Comcast Proposes Its God Box , Vendors Plan for Comcast's 'God' Box , More MSOs Back Comcast's Big Box Project , and Comcast God Box Also a Green Box.)

"This platform is very much in line with that philosophy," Crann says.

Comcast VP of access architecture Jorge Salinger was quoted in the BigBand release, noting that the vendor is "addressing the demanding access requirements facing MSOs to enable an easier migration towards next-generation converged service delivery at the edge."

And the product is coming along as BigBand feels significant pressure on its bread-and-butter QAM business. It recently lost out on part of a big order from Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) because, sources say, BigBand refused to hit the MSO's requirement for $99 per port. (See Arris Wins at Time Warner Cable .)

BigBand won't disclose port pricing, but the company's denser QAM product "will compete toe-to-toe with anyone out there from a performance and a cost perspective," Crann claims, noting that BigBand expects to obtain MSO certifications and deployments for the new QAM blade in 2011.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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