A lot of the buzz surrounding edge QAM devices at Cable-Tec Expo related to vendors that were swarming one large MSO’s request for proposals. Two weeks ago, a pair of those vendors – both early movers in this category – appeared to have reached the honey pot.

Now the results of a poll conducted at the CableLabs Summer Conference indicate that one of those vendors is generating additional buzz on its own. Edge QAM bake-off First, let’s backtrack. Two weeks ago, Arris execs said that a large MSO – Comcast, named specifically – had given its nod to their D5 Universal Edge (UE) QAM, a product that began life three years ago as the company’s Digital Multimedia Termination System (DMTS).

"We’ve been selected by Comcast as a vendor for next-gen edge QAMs," said Arris Senior Director of Product Management for Video Mike Caldwell. "That (product) supports switched digital video (SDV) and the extension of other services."

The spokesman for another vendor was at once more coy and bullish in response to a request for a confirmation of a report that its product likewise had been selected. "We have by far the leading MSO market share of QAM deployments," noted Harmonic VP of Americas Sales Mark Renfroe in a three-point, connect-the-dots e-mail message.

"We are currently a major supplier of edge QAM to Comcast," he added. "We have been recently selected by a major MSO for their VOD and SDV roll out."

That a bake-off was underway was no secret to us. What we’d heard at Expo was that Comcast had been considering proposals from eight or nine vendors. (The number depended on how you counted two of them.) The products under consideration ranged from fully deployed to reference design.

That two should apparently come out winners is no big surprise, either. What’s noteworthy is that both of these vendors were early movers at the video and data edge. Fully cooked, yet flexible Introduced as the DMTS three years ago at the National Show in New Orleans, the D5 UE QAM has been around, accumulating hours and field experience. "It’s not a fresh dream out of a lab," said Arris’s Caldwell.

By definition as a "universal" device, it’s flexible, too. "(The D5) is designed for convergence play, both MPEG and asymmetrical DOCSIS," Caldwell said. "It’s doing MPEG … because that’s what they need today. But in the future, they’ll need to do all that over IP."

"It’s got great roots in IP convergence," he said.

The Harmonic entry in this category is the Narrowcast Services Gateway (NSG) 9000 UE QAM. To elaborate a bit on Renfroe’s brief comments, it’s the long-standing NSG platform that propelled Harmonic to the front of the edge QAM pack.

The conversion of this device to "universal" status partly reflects a fundamental shift in cable networks. "Our customers’ video and data teams are working much more closely today than before," said Harmonic Director of Cable Solutions Gil Katz, earlier this year, in an interview at the Cable Show in Las Vegas.

"It’s not by chance that it’s happening," Katz added. "It’s the same infrastructure, the same IP backbone." Harmonic tops poll As reported in this morning’s edition of sister pub CableFAX Daily, Harmonic’s prowess at the network edge was confirmed in the results of a poll held at the CableLabs Summer Conference.

At the second "Innovation Showcase" (which, unlike December’s showcase, included existing vendors as well as startups) some 120 cable operators voted Harmonic’s cable IPTV solution as the "best new idea that is most likely to succeed."

Of course, cable IPTV is nothing new. (Here’s an article summarizing the results of Time Warner Cable‘s Broadband TV trial.)

What looks to be new in the Harmonic approach is "a unique way to capitalize on the infrastructure of DOCSIS 3.0," said Charter CTO Marwan Fawaz. The demo featured Harmonic-encoded, high and standard definition video streams delivered over a modular cable modem termination system (M-CMTS) architecture (by way of the NSG 9000 UE QAM) to a PC.  – Jonathan Tombes

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