Harmonic Packs Four HDs Per QAM Channel

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Harmonic launched the DiviCom Electra 8000 encoder, which the company said will let cable operators deliver up to four high-definition MPEG-2 streams in one QAM channel.

To deliver four HDs per QAM while maintaining picture quality, the encoder uses an enhanced compression engine with a multipass architecture -- performing three encoding passes -- that uses special-purpose integrated circuits as well as programmable digital-signal processors, according to Harmonic.

The Electra 8000 supports MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) and MPEG-2 codecs in standard- and high-definition formats, up to full frame-rate 1080p 60. The Electra 8000 also provides transcoding, so that content received in MPEG-4 AVC may be re-encoded in MPEG-2.

The 1-rack-unit encoder can process four channels, using 70 watts per channel - which Harmonic claimed is 40% less power consumption than the industry average for HD AVC encoding.

"The new platform, with its unrivalled flexibility and broad feature set, meets operators' current requirements and supports future applications such as full frame-rate 1080p," Harmonic president and CEO Patrick Harshman said in a statement.

Other video vendors that have targeted MPEG-4/MPEG-2 transcoders include Tandberg Television, Motorola and Cisco Systems. In addition, vendors including Imagine Communications are pitching systems to deliver three MPEG-2 HDs in a QAM.

Harmonic expects first customer shipments of the Electra 8000 in June. The company will debut the encoder at Cable Show '09 in Washington D.C., from April 1-3.