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Leading Lights Finalists: Cable Products

Jeff Baumgartner
9/30/2010

11:40 AM -- Following our rundown of Leading Lights finalists in the Cable Services and Apps category, here's a brief look at the best and brightest in the Cable Product category:

  • BelAir Networks Inc. 's cable-optimized 100SP Strand Picocell is coming to the fore just as MSOs start to get real serious with wireless initiatives. Besides, this particular product, which combines WiFi access with 3G impressed the cable engineering crowd something serious to the point that some viewed it as a tool to help the industry develop a real business opportunity -- as opposed to all those fake ones, of course.

  • Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM)'s BCM7572 – High Definition Digital Transport Adapter (DTA) Cable Set-Top Box SoC may appear low-tech, but it's poised to have a big effect on how US MSOs, both big and small, develop their analog reclamation strategies. Broadcom took a measured gamble on this product, leaping ahead before most MSOs were even allowed, from a regulatory standpoint, to even deploy HD-DTAs with integrated security. That bet may pay off... big time. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to approve this fall an exemption that would allow all US cable ops to deploy DTAs that can render hi-def signals. (See FCC Chews on HD-DTA Exemption .)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s uBR-MC20X20V Broadband Processing Engine (BPE) is the vendor's cable modem termination system (CMTS) line card that packs in 20 downstream and 20 upstream ports. That's exactly what many Cisco customers were waiting for so they could jump into D3 with both feet using an integrated CMTS architecture that puts all the upstream and downstream capacity in one Cisco chassis. And the product's already paying dividends, helping Cisco to reestablish its market-leading position in the CMTS category. (See Cisco, Harmonic Rule Cable Access in Q2 .)

  • Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT)'s NSG HectoQAM (NSG 9000-40G), at 36 QAMs per port, is coming on the scene as cable ops look to beef up streaming capacity for legacy services such as VoD and switched digital video, with a future eye toward unicast IPTV services. And, instead of hiding behind a pricing target, Harmonic proudly boasted that densities in the HectoQAM allowed the product to hit pricing of $99 per port -- the kind of magical number that major MSOs such as Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) are now demanding as they hand out their latest round of edge QAM awards. (See Harmonic Lays Claim to Edge QAM Density Crown and Arris Wins at Time Warner Cable .)

  • TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO)'s Flash-based Premiere HD-DVR is billed as a do-it-all box that, thanks to retail and a new set of operator deals in the US and abroad, might finally allow TiVo to reverse slumping subscription numbers. In the case of Premiere, it's capable of delivering cable's linear lineup, including premium channels. It also provides a conduit to Web-sourced video such as Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and (soon) Hulu LLC 's new premium "Plus" service, along with a fancy guide that ties them all together. The rub with TiVo has been its lack of support for cable VoD services, but it's starting to break through with integration deals for Premieres that are leased by MSOs or purchased at retail. (See Cox, TiVo Strike a DVR Deal.)

  • Verivue Inc. 's MDX 9000 Media Distribution Switch, a product that goes beyond the traditional "video pump" by combining streaming with switching, is expected to play a big role in content distribution networks (CDNs) operated by over-the-top service providers as well as cable operators as they carve out cross-platform video services. The company, which counts Comcast Interactive Capital as a backer, has already bagged its first marquee customer (Canada's Shaw Communications Inc. ), but even better hunting is expected in 2011. (See Verivue Tech Gets a Toehold at Shaw .)

    Those were the hits that made our list of finalists. But there were some near-misses that also deserve attention.

    Chief among them is Ceton Corp. 's InfiniTV 4 Digital Cable Quad Tuner, a product that breathes new life into the CableCARD and transforms Media Center PCs into a video hub capable of playing or recording up to four live HD channels simultaneously. Despite some parts shortages that delayed the initial batch of shipments, Ceton still touts a very vocal and passionate customer base.

    Others that were given extra consideration included the Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) Media Gateway, which is currently in trials, and expected to start shipping in the first quarter of 2011, making it a potential candidate for next year's Leading Lights. Also on that short list was the Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB) 4820CD, a tru2way-based "set-back box" designed to mount on the back of digital TVs. It's yet to develop a deployment track record, but it could fill a lucrative gap as cable operators chase down deals to supply video services to hotels and others in the lucrative hospitality sector.

    Agree or disagree with our choices? Let us know by letting it all out on the message board.

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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