Cable Tech

Harmonic Maintains QAM Edge

Despite an edge QAM field that is growing more crowded and more competitive by the quarter, Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) has managed to strengthen its position in the sector. The latest: an extended deal with RCN Corp. that will beef up the cable overbuilder's video-on-demand (VOD) offerings. (See RCN Takes Harmonic to Edge .)

While that deal involves the VOD-centric Narrowcast Service Gateway (NSG) 9116 edgeQAM and software upgrades for RCN's legacy NSG 8108 devices, the next big land grab will include "universal" edgeQAMs that can share resources among multiple apps, including broadcast video, VOD, switched digital video (SDV), and even downstream capacity for the emerging modular cable modem termination system (M-CMTS) and Docsis 3.0.

Like Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), Tandberg Television , C-COR Corp. (Nasdaq: CCBL), Scientific Atlanta , and BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND), as well as other, smaller companies that make products or are developing gear in this category, Harmonic has a "universal" model of its own: the NSG 9000.

Although one can't swing a cat without hitting a "next-gen" edgeQAM vendor these days, based on recent deals, it's clear that the momentum belongs to Harmonic, BigBand, and Arris. While BigBand continues to lead edgeQAM deployments in support of SDV, Harmonic and Arris have both won contracts with Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), which is just getting its SDV efforts off the ground. SA, meanwhile, is the key player in that MSO's SDV trial in New Jersey.

Plus, when vendors challenge the market share claims of other vendors, you know it's a hotly contested market. And it will only get uglier from this point as other MSOs begin to deploy SDV, with Docsis 3.0 on the docket for 2008 and beyond. (See Raining on BigBand's Parade .)

The big question next year and into 2009 will not be who will make it through the land grab, but who (or, at least, whose universal edgeQAM products) won't.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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