BroadLogic is set to introduce a new chip that manufacturers of QAMs can use to quadruple the number of QAM channels per port while dropping system costs and lowering power consumption.
BroadLogic is preparing to hit the market with two versions of its TeraQAM BL85000 chip, one that increases QAM density to 16 channels per port, and a second that goes to 32 channels per port.
The new BroadLogic chips should help manufacturers lower prices significantly. A year ago, QAMs were going for about $400 a unit, and they recently have been selling at around $200, said BroadLogic President and CEO Danial Faizullabhoy. He calculates that QAM manufacturers using BroadLogic chips should be able to approach and eventually beat $100 a QAM.
BroadLogic said that by one calculation, the industry is going to need about a 0.1 QAM’s worth of capacity per home. Ultimately, that means the need to deploy another 5 million QAMs. At $200 a pop, that’s an investment of $1 billion. “We need a breakthrough in economics,” Faizullabhoy said. “The TeraQAM means that $1 billion investment is cut in half to $500 million.”
At the same time, the chips should help slash QAM power consumption by 85 percent, leading to additional opex savings for end customers.
Consumer demand for bandwidth keeps increasing, creating a constant pressure on cable operators to expand their network resources, while cable’s migration toward unicast exacerbates the need for capacity. That, in turn, is creating new opportunities for a variety of pressure release valves.
In the past that has included upgrading networks to 750 MHz, 860 MHz, or even 1 GHz. More recently, the adoption of switched digital video has represented both a step toward unicast and a means of managing bandwidth. In the last year or so, the deployment of ever-denser edge QAMs packing in more channels per port has caught on as a viable option.
The notion of increasing port density is somewhat obvious, but among the first, most passionate advocates has been LiquidxStream, which has a proprietary technique for delivering up to 36 QAM channels per port. The company claims that 96 QAMs per port is achievable.
Several QAM vendors are already increasing the density of their edge QAMs. Arris, for example, recently upped the port density of its D5 universal edge QAM to 8 channels per port (story here).
BroadLogic’s TeraQAM ICs will be commercially available in production quantities by the end of the year in 32- and 16-channel versions. The 16-channel version is priced at $500 for quantities of 1,000 units.
The company did not say who its customers are, but its investors include Cisco, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.
The TeraQAM is an ASIC, whereas most extant chips, Faizullabhoy said, are FPGAs. By implementing the TeraQAM as an ASIC, that lets system designers offload the QAM functionality from the FPGA, and then use a less expensive FPGA to implement the other system functionality, or integrate even more system functionality into the existing FPGA.
“FPGAs need dedicated logic per QAM. Our ASIC can process 32 QAMs with one piece of logic. It’s a unique way of addressing it,” Faizullabhoy said. OEMs can differentiate their products by bringing their own expertise (in rate-shaping, for example) to bear in an external chip – an FPGA or another separate ASIC.
The TeraQAM BL85000 chip is compliant with standards ITU-T J.83 Annexes A, B and C for global use, and it meets the DOCSIS DRFI specification in conjunction with currently available third-party digital-to-analog converters (DACs).