Video hardware

RGB & EGT Go to the Edge

With the cable industry increasingly obsessed with delivering advanced video services, RGB Networks Inc. and EGT Inc. are both bringing out new network edge products to help MSOs process all the different services and content elements.

RGB is arguably taking the bigger step, debuting a new edge QAM video modulator at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) 's Emerging Technologies show in Houston this week. Known as the Universal Scalable Modulator (USM), the pizza-box-shaped device is designed to support several new cable services, including digital broadcast, video on demand (VOD), switched digital video, high-definition TV (HDTV), and other personalized "narrowcast" services.

In a press conference Wednesday, RGB officials said the USM, which will compete against QAM modulators from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s Scientific Atlanta division and Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT), can support as many as 128 QAM channels and multiplex up to 1,280 digital programs. They claimed it will offer the highest density in the industry, easily beating rival edge QAM devices.

"This device can do six to eight QAM channels per port," said Ramin Farassat, VP of product marketing for RGB. "This is really pushing the envelope."

RGB executives said their new edge QAM modulator can also support the downstream portion of the industry's emerging modular cable modem termination system (M-CMTS). In addition, they claimed that the USM is the first edge QAM device to offer a choice of multiple Gigabit Ethernet interfaces or a 10-Gigabit Ethernet interface for video input.

The edge QAM modulator is the fourth product to come out of RGB, a Silicon Valley startup, in less than two years. All four products -- including the company's original Simulcast Edge Processor (SEP), Modular Media Converter (MMC), and Broadcast Network Processor (BNP) -- feature the same "video intelligence" architecture with different software combinations.

With the latest device, Farassat said RGB is seeking to capture a 15 to 20 percent share of the $500 million VOD market worldwide. The company is also shooting to capture a healthy chunk of the nascent switched digital market.

Adam Tom, executive VP of business development for RGB, said the company now counts 19 customers in five countries and has shipped more than 1,200 units over the past 18 months. Relying on a channel partnership with Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), it still conducts most of its business in North America. But it recently opened international offices in the U.K. and Singapore.

EGT's HEMi 2.0
For its part, EGT is rolling out the second installment of its Head End Micro (HEMi) edge video processor at the Emerging Technologies confab. Like the first model, the new HEMi 2.0 takes such "forgotten" analog channels as local public, education, and government (PEG) channels and channels carrying security camera feeds from apartment buildings and converts them into digital video streams for subscribers, enabling cable operators to go all-digital and save bandwidth.

But, unlike its predecessor, the HEMi 2.0 also offers an add/drop multiplexing feature, allowing cable operators to add, drop, or replace individual community channels within a single QAM band. In addition, it permits MSOs to insert closed captioning on community channels and provide backhaul for remote channels.

Chris Gordon, senior director of product management for EGT, said the new edge video processor features a passive loop-through capability as well. He said this feature will let cable operators beam other channels from their headend down to apartment building customers even if the HEMi unit goes down, avoiding a total programming shutdown.

At the same time, EGT is introducing a new digital video processor platform, dubbed VIPr, encompassing devices that can encode both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 video streams. The company's second-generation MPEG-4 encoder, the VIPr4-SDx, is the first member of this new product line.

— Alan Breznick, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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