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The fresh picocell of BelAir

Tue, 08/17/2010 - 8:35am
Brian Santo

The notion of small, local wireless base stations built specifically for cable operators to quickly and inexpensively install and provide spot backhaul service proved the most intriguing among a number of technological proposals presented to a small, private gathering of cable operators.

BelAir Networks introduced a picocell (the BelAir100SP) that can be attached to any HFC network to provide wireless backhaul for just about any extant wireless communications device. Each picocell could cover an area with a 300- to 500-meter diameter.

The product is modular and can be equipped with modules to support a range of licensed 3G networks (e.g., GSM and CDMA), along with dual 802.11n Wi-Fi radios. A module to support LTE will be available when LTE gets deployed, said David Park, BelAir's vice president of product marketing.

There are only so many cell towers, those cell towers have only so much capacity and that capacity is frequently strained. That strain will only get worse, too. Capacity demands are growing far faster than standard cell towers are being built (by an order of magnitude, Park noted), because siting, building and powering additional full-sized cell towers is becoming a more difficult process.

Thus the ability to cover high-traffic spots (parks, plazas, transit stations), and also to be able to support both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, opens up any number of business opportunities, said Mark Coblitz, Comcast's vice president of strategic planning.

Both power for the device and the backhaul path are provided by the broadband HFC plant. The BelAir picocell can be installed on poles, in cabinets and pedestals, and even underground, the company said.

BelAir 100SP PicocelThere were 11 presenters at the event, and all got votes from cable industry representatives. There was a clear theme of distributing content and applications throughout the home – a concern that has emerged consistently through the last few events of this kind.

ActiveVideo Networks demonstrated Web-style personal and social television applications, intuitive navigation to drive next-generation on-demand iVOD experiences,
Web-based interactivity that enhances EBIF capabilities, games innovation and field results that confirm the power of games as a driver of usage, and advanced VOD advertising integration.

The company formalized the idea of the "Cloud In The Home" – how gateway devices equipped with advanced transcoding, processing and stitching technologies can deliver a personalized interactive multimedia experience using compressed video streams to set-top boxes, PCs and mobile devices that require only a thin client, rather than the large software loads that are typically associated with home media networking.

Alcatel-Lucent had two technologies it was showing off. The first was a means of delivering enhanced video services, including IP video, to additional screens while unifying the backend. The other was a prototype Toyota Prius equipped to take advantage of numerous wireless services, including VOD, audio services (Pandora Internet radio, etc.), navigation services and other applications.

Alticast introduced its AltiConnect Social Media platform, which allows cable subscribers to interact with sponsored Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare campaigns from their televisions.

BigBand Networks demonstrated an IPTV application that reuses existing narrowcasting technology to provide IP video services to IP-enabled devices within the home, using the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) connections to access VOD, broadcast TV and Internet video streams.

Digital Keystone showed its system, called Maelstrom, consisting of a gateway and an online synchronization server. The gateway performs transcoding and transcrypting, thereby taking advantage of the native streaming, security and networking capabilities of the client device(s). This means that viewers can immediately watch premium content without any plug-ins, applications or custom code.

Inlet Technologies presented a system to enable the delivery of professional-quality video, including live streaming appliances and file-based transcoding software, to any device over any IP network. The company's Spinnaker live streaming technology is a single solution to reach any device, including STB, PC, iPhone, iPad, Droid or any 3GPP device.

Netgear demonstrated gateways that convert multiple channel programming from digital video to MPEG over IP for delivery to IP devices. This prototype transport gateway can receive both digital TV transport streams and DOCSIS broadband, convert digital TV to multicast MPEG over IP and serve it on the LAN side to multiple IP receivers, including computers and IP STBs. Voice telephony is incorporated to complete the triple-play service.

Pace Americas showed a Home Content Sharing multi-room DVR solution that relies on MoCA 1.1. With a new high-performance, low-power consumption network processor, the company's DVRs achieve massive, simultaneous read/write activity to a hard disk drive. Pace's Home Content Sharing architecture enables up to nine simultaneous HD streams within the home, including six simultaneous recordings.

showed off Ajax-CE, a JavaScript language which allows subscriber-controlled access to IP content through high-quality graphical, Web-based applications. The company positioned it as "an ideal technology to provision an "over-the-top" solution within the existing cable infrastructure. Ajax-CE applications are created and stored within the cable operators' networks, can be edited live and require only small amounts of bandwidth to download. Ajax-CE solutions are highly scalable, and application set-top box integration is not required.

VQ Link developed a technology for automatic measurement, reporting and enhancement of video quality in the distribution network. AVQ incorporates what it described as a real-time mimic of the human visual system, tuned to detect artifacts that really matter, while suppressing alarms for problems unlikely to be noticed by subscribers.

demonstrated its video optimization and DRM capabilities using on-demand and live services. Devices used for the demonstration included Blu-ray players from Samsung and LG; Mac and PC laptops; and iPhone, RIM and Android mobile devices.

More Broadband Direct 8/17/10:

•  The fresh picocell of BelAir
•  Promotions abound at Buckeye, Block Communications
•  SCTE to debut network security course next month
•  In the media: Hulu ponders fall IPO
•  FairPoint CEO asked to step down
•  Dessureault returns to Videotron
•  Survey of viewers shows extent of TV time shifting
•  Tackling the tricky tablet
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