Harmonic has reached new port density levels for edge QAMs with today's news that its HectoQAM will start shipping next month.

The HectoQAM was first openly discussed by Harmonic at the 2008 SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies. Since then, the growth of narrowcast services has caused cable operators to implore vendors for edge QAMs with more density without taking up additional room in headends.

The HectoQAM, which is officially called the NSG 9000-40G, delivers up to 648 QAMs in a two-rack-unit chassis, which Harmonic said was an industry first. The HectoQAM supports up to 36 QAMs per port, which Harmonic said was a density level nearly 10 times greater than most existing edge QAM deployments.

The 9000-40G uses new technologies that Harmonic said significantly improve efficiency and ease of operation, including Harmonic's new EQAM Virtualization software technology and frequency agility for flexible placement of QAMs across the spectrum.

On the flexibility side, the HectoQAM supports video-on-demand, broadcast, switched digital video, modular cable modem termination system (M-CMTS), DOCSIS 3.0 and cable IPTV services.

"Harmonic's expertise and commitment to edge QAM technology innovation has resulted in the introduction of several exciting and unique features with the new NSG 9000-40G solution. Operators can more easily upgrade to an ultra-compact platform, thanks to its use of the same form factor as existing NSG systems and its ability to utilize the same network, integrate with the same back office system and enable flexible use of available spectrum. Furthermore, with the number of QAMs that can be supported using NSG 9000-40G technology – 648 QAMs in 2-RU for 6 MHz networks or 486 for 8 MHz – Harmonic's new solution offers more than double the density of any other solution available today," said Yoav Derazon, senior manager of cable solutions and strategy for Harmonic.

Harmonic's new EQAM Virtualization software technology allows a single device to be operated as a number of virtual systems, simplifying management and integration with the cable operator's existing back office solution. The NSG 9000-40G's 10 Gbps interfaces serve up to 40 Gbps input total and can also function as 1 Gbps links. As a result, MSOs can leverage their existing investment in 1 Gbps IP network equipment, an advantage that Harmonic said was particularly relevant for SDV applications.

The new NSG 9000-40G mainboard and blades can be used with the existing NSG 9000 chassis, allowing operators to leverage their existing hardware investment for added opex savings. And NSG 9000-40G blades are hot-swappable, allowing for ease of management and flexible enhancement of the system without service downtime.

While Harmonic made no mention of the cable industry's Converged Multiservice Application Platform (CMAP) in today's HectoQAM announcement, it does dovetail into some of CMAP's requirements.

CMAP, which is being driven by Comcast and other cable operators, as well as vendors, seeks to create an ultra-dense platform that combines edge QAMs and cable modem termination systems in either a modular or integrated implementation. CMAP's goals also include taking up less space in headends and using less power than the current technologies.

"The core of the technology implemented here, and some of the key features incorporated into the HectoQAM, address some of CMAP's key requirements," said Gil Katz, Harmonic's senior director of cable solutions, via an e-mail this morning. "The new product supports data in an M-CMTS architecture with only the PHY part of the CMTS integrated into the box. We believe that with Cisco's release of the 3G60 blades, the HectoQAM will be a perfect match to carry very high-speed data and help support the increase in demand for IP video."

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