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Buckeye Tunes Up BigBand for IPTV Trial

LOS ANGELES -- The Cable Show -- Buckeye CableSystem is the first US-based MSO to test out a new platform from BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) that lets MSOs add IPTV capabilities to their switched digital video (SDV) architectures.

Buckeye, a Toledo, Ohio, MSO that serves about 150,000 customers, took the SDV plunge with BigBand in February 2009, seeking to use its existing bandwidth more efficiently. It is now making preparations to test out IPTV services using BigBand's vIP PASS and Converged Video Exchange (CVEx) systems. (See Buckeye Picks BigBand for SDV .)

The vIP PASS platform lets MSOs bypass the core cable modem termination system (CMTS) by piping Docsis-delivered IP video streams directly through edge QAMs. CVEx is a software-based video control plane that's capable of delivering linear and on-demand video services to IP-based set-tops and mobile video displays that speak IP, while also supporting an MSO's legacy RF-based digital cable boxes. (See BigBand Lays Cable IPTV Groundwork and BigBand Pushes IP Video Convergence.)

According to Buckeye chief technology officer Joe Jensen, the operator plans to launch the six-month trial in July, and expects about 500 customers to participate.

Buckeye is still determining how many video channels will be part of the test, but Jensen notes that it will likely involve 40 standard-definition and 10 high-definition channels.

While Buckeye's effort amounts to a limited consumer trial, the MSO will keep its content protected during the trial period using digital rights management software from Verimatrix Inc. , which happens to be one of BigBand's IP video integration partners. (See BigBand Adds IPTV Tech Partners.)

Buckeye marks the second cabler to run vIP PASS through its paces. LG Powercom, an operator in South Korea with more than 2.3 million subs, began deploying it last year. (See Koreans Take Cable IPTV for a Spin .)

BigBand has yet to reveal any other cable IPTV deals. But it could certainly use more vIP PASS adopters. Slow uptake on IP video gear contributed to a disappointing first quarter for the Redwood City, Calif., firm. (See BigBand Cuts Staff as Orders Dry Up .)

And BigBand's not the only vendor on the scene touting a CMTS bypass infrastructure for IPTV. Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) has introduced a similar, proprietary approach called "Docsis Lite" and has already gotten some traction with another platform called Direct-To-Edge. Another option making the rounds for smaller operators is a "drop in" IPTV system from GoBackTV Inc. (See Harmonic Goes Lite for Cable IPTV, Iowa Cabler Gets Wired for IPTV, and GoBackTV Lets Cable Cos. 'Drop In' IPTV .)

And Buckeye is just one of a growing number of cable operators that are giving IP video a closer look as they consider ways to evolve their TV Everywhere strategies, tap into the IPTV set-top ecosystem, and bring interactive applications to market more quickly. Among recent activity, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) is getting ready to test IP video using Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Mediaroom in Los Angeles, though the MSO has yet to confirm any of those details. (See TWC Taps Microsoft Mediaroom for IPTV Test .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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