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Bye Bye, Edge QAMs?

Alan Breznick

Will today's hot edge QAM modulators go the way of the dinosaur in the not-too-distant future?

Mike Caldwell, senior director of product management for Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), thinks so. Although more than a dozen companies, including his own, are furiously pitching universal edge QAMs to cable operators these days, Caldwell believes that such downstream edge devices may become obsolete in a few short years as the cable industry makes the inevitable shift from traditional RF technology over coaxial cable to more economical and efficient IP technology over fiber links.

Speaking Monday at the PK Worldmedia Inc. "QAM Before the Storm" conference in Los Angeles, Caldwell predicted wistfully that universal edge QAMs "may be the last class of RF downstream edge devices" that the industry ever deploys. He noted that, while RF technology does not get cheaper as it scales and matures, photonic technology does. As a result, he opined, "we may see the end of RF technology over cable in my career."

In his keynote address, Caldwell also predicted that Docsis 3.0 will "come on like a freight train" in the cable industry, eliminating the need to develop higher QAM modulation schemes. In addition, he argued that "analog TV will die quicker than we think," because of the February 2009 digital TV transition deadline, soaring consumer demand for HDTV sets, and "an explosion in HD content" next year.

— Alan Breznick, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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