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Video hardware

Cox Flips BigBand's DV Switch

BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) is figuring heavily into the switched digital video (SDV) strategy of Cox Communications Inc. after the MSO selected the vendor's platform in multiple systems, starting with Northern Virginia, where Cox serves about 240,000 basic cable subscribers.

James Kelso, Cox's vice president of video engineering, confirmed the MSO also plans to introduce SDV in its Phoenix, Ariz., and Orange County, Calif., markets. BigBand's technology will play a central role in those areas as well, Kelso says.

The Orange County rollout will be significant, because it will be the first SDV deployment for BigBand in the Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) digital set-top environment. All of the vendor's previous installments -- with Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) -- have been for systems based on the Scientific Atlanta digital platform.

The Phoenix deployment will also carry some industry import. Cox has about 961,000 basic subscribers there and will be the first MSO to roll out SDV in an "open" manner, as it expects to mix in edge QAMs from vendors other than BigBand.

The potential for such open architectures as well as next-gen "universal" edge QAMs -- designed to share capacity among broadcast digital video, video-on-demand, and even IP-based Docsis applications -- has attracted a large group of suppliers. (See Universal Edge QAM Market Heats Up.)

Kelso would not say which QAM vendors would be part of the Phoenix SDV deployment, but noted that BigBand, SA, Motorola, and Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) are among Cox's suppliers of edge QAM gear. Because Phoenix is based on SA's digital video platform, SA-made edge QAMs would appear to be the most logical choice.

Although Cox is looking to make the edge QAM an interchangeable component, BigBand will serve as the foundation for the MSO's SDV deployments going forward. In addition to the edge QAM, BigBand's SDV architecture also includes its Broadband Multimedia-Service Router (BMR) and servers that interface with set-tops and receive channel change commands.

"We don't intend to have more than one backoffice for switched digital video," Kelso says.

As for Northern Virginia, Cox intends to launch SDV commercially to subscribers there in less than 30 days. Sources familiar with that market say Cox originally awarded the SDV deployment to SA but later opted for BigBand.

Kelso and BigBand officials would not comment on vendor selection activities in Northern Virginia, but Kelso did commend BigBand for getting SDV up and going quickly in that market. He says it took BigBand only six weeks to get the system installed and turned on with "friendlies." To Page 2

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