BY ANTHONY CRUPI Adelphia Communications continues to fight for its survival, and its latest move sees the company looking beyond the boardroom. Last week, BigBand Networks announced that Adelphia had deployed the vendor’s Broadband Multimedia-Service-Router (BMR) for digital broadcast services at four head-end system locations in California, Colorado and Pennsylvania. This marks the first time Adelphia has deployed a new digital product since its Chapter 11 filing late last June, a sign that it’s back to business as usual in Coudersport. For BigBand, Adelphia’s embrace of the BMR is a logical extension of the two companies’ long-standing commitment to one another. “Adelphia has had a close relationship with us since we were founded,” said BigBand VP of corporate development Seth Kenvin. “In fact, their input has helped influence our own designs in some cases.” While integrating the BMR into the four systems is a vote of confidence for BigBand’s technology and, in a sense, the MSO itself, Kenvin was quick to point out that the buy-in wouldn’t put a huge dent in Adelphia’s wallet. “This is an incremental approach,” Kenvin said. “There’s not a big upfront capital commitment that needs to be made on their end.” Although an Adelphia spokesman declined to comment on the deployments, its VP of engineering, Dan Liberatore, touched on the MSO’s motives in a prepared statement. “We have selected BigBand Networks because the BMR platform lets us expand the digital broadcast programming we provide to our subscribers as an alternative to expensive plant upgrades,” Liberatore said. “The platform also promises to extend its cost effectiveness and plant efficiency benefits to additional services such as HDTV, digital ad insertion and VOD.” BigBand COO Jamie Howard explained that the BMR is designed in such a way that any additional services can be activated by purchasing supplementary licenses. “When you purchase a BMR for, say, HDTV or grooming, we activate a software license that enables those applications,” Howard said. “If you then want to add VOD services, a card can be added directly to the mainframe.” The initial hardware install is practically plug-and-play, which is a great advantage to customers trying to keep an eye on the bottom line. “We want to provide seamless migration upgrades, not forklift upgrades,” Howard said. The BMR enhances bandwidth efficiency through selective application of video bit-rate adaptation to some or all programs on an as-needed basis. High input capacity on the BMR chassis enhances operator flexibility in creating lineups from many satellite-based, off-air and local digitally encoded programming sources. Over 3 million digital cable subscribers in six of the top ten MSO markets are being served by BigBand equipment. While Howard was understandably reluctant to play fortune teller, he did say he hasn’t seen Adelphia falter in its objective to pursue more digital customers. “They’ve been bullish on continuing to provide high-end services to their subscribers,” he said. “From our vantage point, it doesn’t seem as though they’ve had to slow down much.” Whether Adelphia slows down or eventually grinds to a halt shouldn’t affect BigBand one way or the other. Jupiter Research analyst Lydia Loizides said that any speculation about the efficacy of the Adelphia-BigBand relationship has to take into consideration each of the relevant individual markets. “A lot will depend on the relative health of the markets in which BigBand has deployed the BMR,” Loizides said. “Just because the systems may be part of a deteriorating corporate entity doesn’t mean they won’t be able to go it alone. Papa might be dead, but the kids are still alive and kicking.” Adelphia wouldn’t reveal the systems in which it had deployed the BMRs, but its California markets are robust. That certainly helps matters. “There are still ways to sustain Adelphia’s business, although not at the magnitude we all expected before everything went south,” Loizides said. “For BigBand, this is reinforcement that their concept works.”

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