Cable Tech

LiquidxStream Enters E-QAM Race

LOS ANGELES -- SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies -- Canadian startup LiquidxStream Systems Inc. has entered the already-congested "universal" edge QAM market with an ultra-dense offering that, it believes, will help it score deployments with large MSOs as they begin to install bandwidth-saving switched digital video (SDV) architectures.

Headquartered in Montreal and helmed by former Vidéotron Telecom Ltd. exec François Laflamme, LiquidxStream is using this week's Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Conference on Emerging Technologies as its springboard into the market.

Tony Pierson, the company's VP of business development, is scheduled to speak Monday morning at the one-day "The QAM Before the Storm" pre-show sessions.

It's entering the mix with the LxS-3216, a flagship edge QAM equipped with 32 QAM channels per RF port, and 512 QAMs per device. The gear is considered "universal" because it's designed to share resources among several cable services, including SDV, video-on-demand, and broadcast digital video.

It can also be made to serve as the downstream element of a modular cable modem termination system (M-CMTS) and support Docsis 3.0, a new platform that will produce speeds in excess of 100 Mbit/s.

Although LiquidxStream settled on 32 QAMs per port for its initial release, "we could do a lot more than that if there's a need for it in the future," Pierson says.

He says the QAM overhead will come into play as operators migrate from SDV multicast to SDV unicast, which will allow for individual streams to be sent to customers and broaden the potential for targeted advertising.

Such densities will also be required by popular, advanced on-demand applications such as "Start Over" and "Look Back," which have been pioneered in the U.S. by Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), but which are starting to gain the interest of other MSOs. (See Comcast Feels Like Starting Over .)

As for helping out the channel bonding features of Docsis 3.0, LiquidxStream claims it allows operators to use 32 digital QAMs anywhere in the band, eliminating the need for a contiguous slice of spectrum.

Some downstream-heavy CMTS blades, such as the one from Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), require channels used for bonding to be next to each other on the spectrum. (See CMTS Downstream Prices Plummet.)

LiquidxStream is the latest vendor to use the Emerging Technologies event to launch a new edge QAM product. At the 2007 confab, RGB Networks Inc. launched its version of a dense universal edge QAM, the Universal Scalable Modulator (USM), touting six to eight QAM channels per port, or 128 QAMs per unit. (See RGB & EGT Go to the Edge.)

But RGB, also a relative startup, is just one of more than 10 other vendors LiquidxStream will have to contend with. Also in the mix are much larger, more established companies such as Motorola, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)/Scientific Atlanta , Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT), Tandberg Television , and Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), which now has two advanced edge QAMs on the menu following its acquisition of C-COR Inc. (See Universal Edge QAM Market Heats Up and Arris Sews Up C-COR.)

BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND), meanwhile, is considered the SDV deployment leader and, in fact, introduced its own "universal" device last fall. (See BigBand Edge QAM Goes 'Universal'.)

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