Technology

Arris Launches 4-to-1 HD Compression

11/04/2009 1:32 PM Eastern

Arris has upgraded its EGT VIPr2200 encoder to fit four
high-definition channels over a single 256 QAM, a move it believes will offer significant
bandwidth and cost savings for cable operators trying to expand their lineup of
HD channels.

At least one other company has announced products capable of
compressing four HD channels onto one quadrature amplitude modulation stream,
but Bill Hogan, Arris vice president and product line manager of the Digital
Video Services business, said the VIPr has a number of advantages in bandwidth
savings, cost and video compared with competing products.

Operators were traditionally able to fit two HD services on
one QAM and most recently were able to get three high-def channels with
products that used rate shaping and other technologies. Cramming four HD
channels into one QAM would allow operators to significantly expand their HD
line-ups or free up bandwidth for other services.

"HD compression is a very important imperative for cable
operators who are competing with satellite and telcos operators that are
talking about offering hundreds of HD channels," Hogan noted. "Anything that
allows them to increase the number of HD channels is an important development."

Existing customers of the VIPr encoders can achieve those
savings relatively inexpensively with a simple software upgrade to the VIPr
encoders, which were first introduced about a year ago

Most importantly, Hogan contends the VIPr encoders offer
much better video quality than competing technologies.

"Over the last few years, we've seen customers try to do HD
compression at a three [HD channels] to one [QAM] ratio," Hogan said. "But the
most popular three-to-one compression mechanism has been to use a rate shaper,
and [that approach does] not give the level of quality or the level of
potential compression that you get from VIPr."

At present, the VIPr can transcode an MPEG-4 signal to
MPEG-2. Sometime next year, Arris plans to introduce a software upgrade so MPEG-2
signals can be converted to MPEG-4.

Arris decided to initially focus on the conversion of MPEG-4
to MPEG-2, said Hogan, because that reflected the current state of the market.
While programmers are increasingly transporting their channels to cable
operators using MPEG-4 compression to save satellite space or bandwidth on
fiber networks, most cable operators must still use convert those MPEG-4
signals to MPEG-2 because most cable set-tops can only handle MPEG-2 signals.

Arris engineers are currently working on a software upgrade
that would allow VIPr to also convert signals from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4.

"We have a road map to do that by the middle of next
year," Hogan said. "It's a very flexible platform that is based on software so
we can continue to upgrade and improve it."