BigBand Snags SusCom for HD


BigBand Networks Inc. has extended its reach into high-definition TV, inking a deal to sell its broadband multimedia router to York, Pa.-based MSO Susquehanna Communications Inc.

SusCom will use the routers to deliver HDTV signals to subscribers in its York and Williamsport, Pa., systems, which combine to pass 150,000 homes.

BigBand's BMR is an extension of its BigBand Grooming system, which some cable operators have deployed to better utilize bandwidth. The introduction of HDTV causes operators to monitor their bandwidth allocation more closely, said BigBand vice president of corporate development Seth Kenvin.

The BMR also helps operators combine standard-definition and HDTV channels for maximum efficiency, he added.

SusCom plans to launch HD service on March 3 with five to six channels, said vice president of marketing and programming Dan Templin. SusCom has HD deals with four broadcast TV stations in York and two in Williamsport.

On the cable side, the MSO will offer Home Box Office and Showtime HD products, along with Discovery HD Theater for $4.95 per month à la carte, said Templin. The operator is also in talks with ESPN and HDNet.

SusCom will use the Scientific-Atlanta 3100 set-top box for the service, said Templin. Aside from Discovery, there will be no extra charge for HDTV content, he said.

The set-top carries with it an $11.95 per month lease charge, $5 more than the cost of leasing a digital box.

BigBand's software helps operators choose the bandwidth configuration that provides the best network utilization, said director of product marketing Sylvain Riviere.

"SusCom will combine one HD channel with several standard definition channels in several cases," Riviere said. "Our BMR gives operators a lot more flexibility."

BigBand's system allows MSOs to control the sourcing of HDTV signals from satellite or off-air feeds, mixing and matching as necessary, Riviere said. For instance, HDNet programming varies from 10 Megabits per second to 18 Mbps, while HBO fare ranged from 4 Mbps to 15 Mbps.

Operators can pair low-bit rate standard definition channels with HD channels in the same QAM to increase bandwidth efficiency.

Installing the BMR will also allow SusCom to digest HD programming in different formats, Riviere added. Many broadcasters have launched HDTV in the 1080i format, while ESPN will launch in 720p.

The BMR also can switch between standard definition and HDTV within a signal in real time. For instance, NBC broadcasts only a portion of its schedule in HD. And some TV stations are shooting some local news segments in HD, while other segments are captured in standard definition, he said. The BMR allows for a seamless transition without signal loss.

BigBand said it now has deals with eight of the top 25 MSOs.