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Cable/Video

QAM-TUM Leap?

Forget about the universal edge QAM modulator. Say hello to the "HectoQAM," the latest proposed device for stuffing more QAM channels into the cable subscriber's home.

As envisioned, this futuristic "video-aware router" would deliver up to 100 QAM channels, or a whopping 600 MHz, of video and data signals to cable subscribers over a single port. That's far, far more than the four or eight channels per port that most edge QAM devices can now deliver. "It is really the ultimate universal edge QAM," gushed Adi Bonen, president of LASTeND Systems, who presented a paper about the HectoQAM at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) 's Emerging Technologies conference in Los Angeles Tuesday afternoon.

Bonen and paper co-author Gil Katz, director of cable solutions and strategy for Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT), contend that the HectoQAM is needed because of the rapid growth of such "personalized" digital services as Start Over, Look Back, and other emerging video-on-demand (VOD) applications. They also point to the soaring bandwidth demands created by the explosive growth of high-definition TV (HDTV) offerings and high-speed data, not to mention the different unicast services on the way. "To deploy personal services, we are looking at an order of magnitude of more QAM channels than we are providing today," Bonen said.

The HectoQAM would work by combining all of a cable operator's digital video, voice, and data services in an IP network, rather than the traditional RF network. Only the operator's remaining analog channels would still be combined in the RF network. As a result, Bonen and Katz argue, both capital and operating costs would drop significantly.

"We expect that the cost per QAM channel will be an order of magnitude lower than the cost of QAM today," Bonen said. Katz estimates that the device would cost about $4,000 per port, with each port feeding one cable service group.

Questioned about the time frame for the HectoQAM by panel moderator Richard Gasloli, senior vice president of strategic planning and group technical advisor for Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Katz said the device could be ready by sometime in 2010. But, in an aside that was probably only half joking, he looked at Gasloli and cracked, "Tell me when you need it."

— Alan Breznick, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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