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Xtend’s bandwidth test headed to U.S.

Jul 29, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Just when you thought the $60 billion cable operators have spent to upgrade their systems was enough, perhaps 860 MHz really won’t be able to cut the mustard after all.
The bandwidth requirements as video-on-demand expands and high-definition TV takes flight will outstrip the current maximum capacity of cable networks, said Hillel Weinstein, CEO and co-founder of Xtend Networks in Tel Aviv, Israel. The company has developed a solution to eliminate the bottleneck that clogs the last mile and expand capacity to 3 gigahertz. Xtend has conducted trials of its technology in Israel and plans to soon launch a test in the United States.
“Our purpose in establishing Xtend was to eliminate the constraints of the last mile and enable [better connections]. Once [cable operators] reach past a certain number of subscribers [for VOD], the last mile is clogged. Coax cable is capable of a much better performance than it does today,” Mr. Weinstein said. In densely populated areas where cable modem penetration is high, many customers wind up with only 200 KBps or so as the average speed, since other users are online at the same time.
To massage the network to its full capability, Xtend replaces the splitter with its 3 GHz splitter and adds its amplifiers to the existing ones. At the node, it introduces a new device in an upconverter and at the set-top box or cable modem with a downconverter.
This solution allows for expanded VOD, high-throughput Internet and HDTV, which may be the killer application of this product line, because HDTV cannot operate without a tremendous amount of bandwidth, Mr. Weinstein said. It requires five to six times the bandwidth that is available today, he said.
Cable operators will gradually expand the number of HD channels they offer as demand increases, he said. The cost to outfit subscribers with this additional bandwidth is about $100 to $200 per customer. He expects a U.S. trial later this year, with commercial deployment in 2003.
While he admits that operators aren’t clamoring for such a solution today, he expects they will down the road as they learn that 860 MHz won’t satisfy VOD, Internet and HDTV.
Bandwidth is the greatest resource a cable operator has and isn’t being exploited as best it can, said Yaron Wartski, VP engineering and technology at Golden Channels in Petach-Tikva, Israel. The cable operator, which serves 450,000 customers in Israel, conducted a test of Xtend’s solution in May.
“Maybe today we don’t need that much, but in the future applications like VOD, IP telephony … I’m almost positive we will need much more than 860 MHz.” he said.
The Xtend product needs further refinement and development to become mature, but Mr. Wartski expects Golden Channels may deploy the solution commercially in the third quarter of 2003.
Extending existing infrastructure is less costly than upgrading, said Bill Bauer, president and CEO of InterTech in Gering, Neb., a small cable operator that provides back-office support and Internet connectivity for MSOs. He said that InterTech is seriously considering using Xtend’s products.
Narad Networks in Westford, Mass., offers a solution similar to Xtend’s. Narad also extends the spectrum of the coaxial cable but accomplishes that mission using gigabit Ethernet architecture, said Ahmet Ozalp, VP strategic marketing for the company. The architecture is switched, which allows for better quality of service and better bandwidth management, he said. Narad has trialed its solution with three top five multiple system operators this year and expects a deployment this fall, Mr. Ozalp said.