B-Star Deploys CopperGate Home PNA


The Shanghai Engineering Research Center for Broadband Technologies & Applications (B-Star) has deployed CopperGate HomePNA technologies for an Ethernet-over-coaxial cable test project in Shanghai, China, that provided over 10,000 residents with broadband Internet, interactive digital-TV and high-definition video content.

The test illustrates some of the rapid progress that is being made in China in the deployment of both digital television services and the delivery of HD content. High-def television in China got a big boost this year as a result of the Beijing Summer Olympics, produced in HD in Beijing, as well as state-owned broadcaster CCTV’s decision to launch an HD channel in May 2008.

“The government set up a testing group [in 2007] in Shanghai called B-Star to evaluate the various technologies” for the Jiading district of Shanghai and “recommended our technology,” said CopperGate vice president of North American market Michael Weissman in an interview. Since then, the technology has been tested in about 10,000 homes and is about to be more widely deployed over the local cable system.

CopperGate makes chipsets that allow carriers to distribute broadband digital content over telephone lines, coaxial cable and power lines. It’s currently working with North America’s five largest IPTV providers, including with AT&T on its whole-home digital video recorder deployments.

In China, B-Star chose CopperGate because its HomePNA offered a low-cost way to upgrade the cable network and deliver IPTV and other digital services to multiple-dwelling units.

Unlike many other markets, cable operators in China own the wiring inside apartment buildings and homes, Weissman said, which gives them a potentially valuable asset that can be used to deliver digital services.

Using an Ethernet-over-coax system, CopperGate’s current HomePNA technology allowed B-Star to deliver up to 160 Megabits per second to each floor of an apartment building, producing an effective throughput of about 100 Mbps, Weissman said. When divided between the six to 10 apartments on each floor, the operator has enough bandwidth for digital TV, some HD content, high-speed Internet, VOD, DVRs and other services, he said.

The MDU system in Shanghai is designed to support 1 HD and 5 SD streams.

B-Star is using MPEG-2 encoding, in which standard-definition signals are delivered at 8 Mbps and HDTV is at 25 Mbps, he wrote in an e-mail following the interview. “When the HD is used, the number of end points [or subscribers on each floor of the apartment] is roughly six today.”

In North America, Weissman notes that operators are increasingly looking to home-networking solutions that can handle lots of HD content. Of the 7 million chips that the company has shipped to date, about 2 million have gone out since May.

“Roughly 100,000 new homes a month are installing HomePNA technology,” he noted, more than any other technology.

CopperGate will soon begin shipping newer 3210 chips that will allow the HomePNA to deliver up to 360 Mbps. With an effective throughput of about 200 Mbps, the chips make it possible for home networks to handle larger amounts of HD content.

“That will move performance inside the home from 100 Megabits of throughput to 200 Megabits,” Weissman notes. “That will enable all sorts of applications and multiple HD streams.”