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Ruckus Rules

Despite all the grumpiness about the cable-Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) joint venture, it's apparent cable engineers still like wireless, or at least its potential use as a stable, high-bandwidth conduit for video apps.

A hi-def-fueled 802.11n system demo'd by Ruckus Wireless Inc. has come away as the “idea that is most likely to succeed” at the CableLabs Winter Conference Monday at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

Although the confab is a press-free gathering, event organizers did get some trade media on the horn this afternoon to discuss the results of the morning’s Innovation Showcase, which features tech demos from nine companies that made it through an RFI process.

The big winner was Ruckus, which showed how an 802.11n multimedia access point could be made fast and stable enough to handle the three HD MPEG-2 video streams, with each running at 20 Mbit/s. Ruckus used multicast techniques to stream HD to three IP-based set-tops. At least two of those set-tops were receiving video from a distance of about 60 feet.

On top of that, the same system was being used to pull a video stream through a Slingbox and to run a voice call. About half of roughly 300 people there in the room were also using the system as a wireless hotspot for general Internet connectivity.

“Everything went without a hitch,” said Ruckus Wireless president and CEO Selina Lo.

Although the showcase was for tech demonstration purposes, Lo noted that Ruckus is in talks with MSOs about how they might use 802.11n, and her company’s technology, for home distribution of video as well as managed services targeted to businesses and hospitality environments.

Ruckus’s 802.11n product line is currently in the beta phase, with an initial full release expected sometime next month, and higher levels of production targeted for the second half of 2008.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) SVP of strategic planning Mark Coblitz said Ruckus’s ability to support stable, simultaneous HD streams wirelessly showed the “possibility that this [technology] might actually work in a consistent way.”

While variables can affect true throughputs for 802.11n, Lo said the targeted “sustained worst case” for the Ruckus platform is between 60 Mbit/s and 80 Mbit/s in a 5,000 to 6,000 square-foot area. While fluctuating speeds are okay for some Internet apps, such as email, they must be stable for video and voice services, she said.

Ruckus is the third vendor to win the CableLabs honor. Last August, at the CableLabs Summer Conference, Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) was the top vote-getter for its video-over-Docsis demo. (See Harmonic's Bright Idea .) Last March, Simple Star Inc. took the crown. (See Here She Is: Miss CableLabs!.)

Here’s a look at the other demos that were good enough to make the initial cut, but didn’t take home the hardware:

  • BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) showed off a variable bit rate (VBR) version of its switched digital video platform called “QualityShaping,” which, as the theory goes, improves bandwidth efficiency 40 to 50 percent over traditional constant bit rate (CBR) methods.
  • Cinea Inc. demo'd forensic watermarking for set-top-compressed outputs. In English, this refers to a system that can help authorities track down content pirates or unauthorized users. Cinea says its “Running Marks” watermarking tech is already integrated with the Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) BCM7400 HD Video SoC DVR platform.
  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) showed off how its Content Delivery System could use the DVS 629 standard to deliver advanced ads via “any stream to any screen,” including TVs, PCs, and mobile devices.
  • DiTech Networks presented a live demo of its Voice Quality Assurance (VQA) product and how it reduces or eliminates ambient noise from a caller’s environment.
  • GE Security & iControl demo'd home security products powered by broadband connections.
  • GridNetworks Inc. showed how cable operators and content owners can stream HD-quality videos in a managed and reliable way over broadband using a technique it calls “GridCasting.”
  • Move Networks Inc. featured a system for premium content owners and aggregators that delivers live and on-demand, long-form video over high-speed Internet connections.
  • thePlatform Inc. (a Comcast subsidiary) demonstrated the ability to create unique broadband video channels “in minutes.” Fast food for the broadband video world?


— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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