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Reviving a Cheetah

Mon, 02/22/2010 - 8:11am
Brian Santo

There’s only so much that cable companies can squeeze capex, so it’s only natural that they have been turning their attention to opex. That puts a premium on making sure operations are running efficiently. Meanwhile, intensifying competition means always having to say you’re sorry for the slightest of glitches (don’t even mention outages), which also puts a premium on operational efficiency.

Some industry veterans intend to take advantage of those trends to revive a Cheetah.

Cheetah Technologies, founded in the 1980s, developed technologies to monitor RF performance in cable networks. In 2000, Acterna bought out the company. In 2003, Tollgrade bought the operation from Acterna for $14.3 million.

Last year, a handful of cable vets banded to buy the Cheetah line from Tollgrade for the fire sale price of $3 million. Stephen John, who helped set up Charter Communications’ business services operation, is the CEO. Steve Santamaria, formerly with Charter and with Vyyo, is executive vice president. Earl Hershey is chief architect, and Jim McCall is vice president of operations.

The old Cheetah product is installed with most of the major MSOs, John said, so they’ve bought themselves an instant installed base. Currently, Cheetah can keep on top of RF parameters and signal-to-noise, for example, as well as some IP attributes such as delay and jitter.

Last week, the once-again independent Cheetah Technologies snapped up video quality monitoring technology from Symmetricom for a modest $2.5 million.

So the new Cheetah guys just paid bargain basement prices to get two operations that weren’t doing much in isolation, but at a conceptual level have the potential for complementing each other.

Symmetricom has developed a highly sophisticated means of evaluating video quality – without a reference, John noted – and then scoring video quality.

The company intends to start correlating the data it gets from its Cheetah status monitoring systems with the QoE monitoring systems from Symmetricom. Ideally, they’ll be able to get to the point where they’ll be able to pinpoint the source of problems.

Operators are eager to know precisely what is going on in their networks, John explained. “The top five or eight, they’re all doing their own work with correlations.”

The goal is to not only be able to monitor the network, but also to connect with the back office systems so that an operator will be able to detect changes in network conditions and know which specific customers might be affected by those changes.


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