Optical/IP Networks

Chinook Blows Into Town

Chinook Communications, named for the warm wind that blows periodically over the Rocky Mountains, is preparing to detail its technology, its new executive team, and a first funding round of $17 million.

The company is working on last-mile broadband access technology that would allow carriers to pack more bandwidth into existing networks, although its product marketing strategy has not yet been fully developed.

Chinook's executive team will include: President and CEO Andrew Audet, a cable and data exec from Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT); CFO Elliot Honan, formerly CFO of Into Networks; engineering boss Michael Grady, formerly of Argon Networks and Bay Networks; and Marketing VP David Scott Brown, formerly of Peach Networks (now part of Microsoft Corp. [Nasdaq: MSFT] ).

OneLiberty Ventures, Walden VC, BancBoston Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, and YankeeTek Ventures are Chinook's backers. Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Brian Chen, Gregory W. Wornell, and Richard Barron founded the company with help from Into Networks founder Ric Fulop and Narad Networks Inc. director Rouzbeh Yassini.

The basis of Chinook's technology is a trick called digital watermarking, which uses a set of digital signal processing algorithms to embed one signal within another to form a third signal. The signals can be embedded, for instance, at service provider points of presence (POPs) or cable head ends, then decoded at a subscriber site using a cable modem, set-top box, or some other access device.

By inserting up to 6 Mbit/s of "new" bandwidth in each channel without mucking up the other signals, Chinook hopes to appeal to service providers by allowing them to stuff more data down pipes at the bottleneck of bottlenecks, the last mile. But depending on how its packaged, digital watermarking can yield several different ways to help service providers make more money through their existing cable, broadcast, and satellite networks.

For example, such applications include peppering media broadcasts with targeted advertising and offering video on demand and interactive programming guides. The technology could also be used to "mark" commercials so that firms can monitor TV or radio broadcasts to make sure certain ads play a certain number of times.

Chinook hasn't figured out whether its going to sell components or finished systems yet, but it has begun developing the integrated circuits and other pieces necessary to take its intellectual property to market, according to Brown. The company will most likely be a fabless integrated circuit maker, says Brown, but it's leaving all its options open.

While there are several different types of competing data transmission techniques, including the way Wink Communications (Nasdaq: WINK) embeds content into broadcast signals, Chinook's approach appears to stand out because of the sheer amount of extra bandwidth it is promising service providers. The technology ultimately could provide two things service providers need: an additional revenue source that also gives them an excuse to slow spending on network upgrades and a way for them to keep better tabs on the quality of the digital services they're providing.

Brown says Chinook will have product announcements in three to six months and will be in trials with its technology by the end of this year. For more concrete details, though, we'll have to wait to see which way Chinook's marketing wind blows.

-- Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com
mu-law 12/4/2012 | 8:38:31 PM
re: Chinook Blows Into Town Neat idea. Should work, proof of concept already exists from other related areas.

This probably requires an uncompressed loss-tolerant channel to be useful in the manner described... analog video carriers like CATV are a good opportunity for this, while they continue to exist.

However, image processing is perhaps the single most computationally complex way I can think of to increase symbol density. I question whether this will be viable for consumer applications because of the cost ramifications. If they can get high volume logic made that is equal to or lesser in complexity than a DTV MPEG2 encoder, they *might* stand a chance.
Ted F. 12/4/2012 | 8:38:21 PM
re: Chinook Blows Into Town A solution like this will only last another couple of years as the bandwidth needs are growing and the bandwidth of copper will be saturated.
In the long term we all know that the answer to the last-mile problem is optical (and there are some pretty good cost-efficient optical solutions on the horizon)-- I wouldn't invest too heavily in anything that is based on copper infrastructure.
Granted, the technology sounds impressive, but in the long run, it adds only a drop-in-the-bucket of the necessary bandwidth that the market will demand.
I put this in the same category as DSL and cable--STOPGAP, band-aid solutions that try to pacify the market until the optical solutions arrive.
Horkus 12/4/2012 | 8:38:17 PM
re: Chinook Blows Into Town I think this whole idea that the world is going to throw away it's old POT's is not going to happen for a long time. These big telco companies want to milk their lines for everything they've got. They don't want to spend a fortune on new infrastructure. so this technology will probably add a few more years to that "long time".
Ted F. 12/4/2012 | 8:38:16 PM
re: Chinook Blows Into Town these guys aren't stupid enough to enter the market as another DSL or Cable system (which is essentially what they are, as they require telco POP and a user side modem/box). instead they appeal to the service provider, offering up to 6Mbps for jamming all that advertising crap to customers and cashing in on it. However, this is still requiring the hassle of deploying it. Which brings me back to my point-- REAL (optical) Broadband is an inevitable reality over the next few years; as networks are gearing up for this I don't think the want to invest any more in STOPGAP solutions that will only take them a couple years.......
wOOp 12/4/2012 | 8:38:16 PM
re: Chinook Blows Into Town Why do so many in our industry say something is "impressive" simply because someone else said it.

No one is going to buy this technology. First it requires consumers to throw away set top boxes and buy new ones. With no industry consensus or standard, who's going to invest $400-500 in something that will likely be outdone by some other vendor in a matter of months.

Second, there's nothing revolutionary about doing fancy DSP'ing to cram more stuff in a signal. If anything, DSP cramming results in MARGINAL bandwidth improvement with many limitations depending on line quality and other factors.

Also, why is this management team "impressive"? I see nothing in the write up that says this team is better than anyone else.

Think first before jumping on this bandwagon. Anything powered by hype will eventaully slow down and then disappear.

Scott Raynovich 12/4/2012 | 8:37:59 PM
re: Chinook Blows Into Town wOOp--what have you done lately that's impressive?
mu-law 12/4/2012 | 8:37:55 PM
re: Chinook Blows Into Town "No one is going to buy this technology."

This statement would seem to be contradicted by the fact that a number of investors have paid $17MM for it.

"First it requires consumers to throw away set top boxes and buy new ones."

As does each of DTV cable, DTV broadcast, DBS, and DSS, which have already been adopted.

"With no industry consensus or standard, who's going to invest $400-500 in something that will likely be outdone by some other vendor in a matter of months."

This happens to be the model (and price point) of premium consumer electronics, viz. VHS, sVHS, 8mm, Hi8, Digital 8, CDi, DVD, Divx, LD.

"If anything, DSP cramming results in MARGINAL bandwidth improvement with many limitations depending on line quality and other factors."

If you are interested in reading the original piece, you would find that this technology is not a modulation technique, so your comment is irrelevant.

As regards that same irrelevant comment,
the "DSP cramming" you describe is responsible for CS-ACELP, which makes 64k into 8k, DCT + motion estimation which makes 270mbps into 2, and QAM which makes 33.6kbps into 52mbps.

You seem to have a lot of confidence in your judgements of whether or not something is "impressive".
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