HD Drives BigBand’s Asian Expansion

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Video networking vendor BigBand is ramping up its Asian operations as part of a strategy to capitalize on the rapid deployment of additional HD content by operators. The vendor hopes the bandwidth pressures of adding more high-definition content will push operators to deploy their switched digital video products.

“The reason Asian operators are deploying switched digital video is the same as the U.S.,” said BigBand chief cable architect Doug Jones. “They want to provide more capacity for programming and the driver of that is high-definition.”

Asian operators are particularly active in expanding HD services in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Malaysia, Jones said. Some markets are also experimenting with newer HD formats that demand even more bandwidth, creating additional demand for switched products.

“In the U.S. everyone is focused on 1080p or 1080i but in Asia there are experiments with 2160, which is known as Quad HD, which takes up four times the bit rate of a regular HD program, and with 3-D HD programming, which also takes more bandwidth.”

A recent study from research group In-Stat found that Asian deployments of switched video will grow by about 85% a year for the next four years and hit $212 million by 2012.

BigBand has already completed certification of its switched video solution and client software with middleware provider Alticast in South Korea. Jones also said it is trialing its products with some Korean cable operators.

Earlier this year, the Korean government passed new rules that allow telcos to launch video services and telcos are expected to launch their first IPTV offerings next year, putting pressure on cable operators to continue to expand their HD lineups. Currently, operators provide around 50 HD channels, according to Jones.

“The way to stay ahead of the competition and to complete effectively is by offering more and more programming,” Jones said. “If you are going to compete against IPTV, which is inherently switched, switched digital is a easier and more economical way to get the bandwidth you need than you can with plant upgrades or by splitting nodes.”

In Korea, government rules require cable operators to use tru2way standards (formerly OpenCable Applications Platform), Jones said, which is why getting their products certified to work with Seoul-based middleware provider Alticast was important.

“Alticast is an OCAP stack supplier and so this application for switched digital was written for OCAP,” he said. “It validates that our products work on top of tru2way, which we’ve already shown with our work with Time Warner Cable.”

BigBand switched video products have already been deployed or are in the process of being deployed in systems that reach about 17 million homes in the U.S. Asia was chosen for its first international expansion because a number of territories are actively expanding their high-def offerings. Jones said the next step will be Europe.

“Europe has been making big noises about digital IPTV and more high-def and next year you will see us moving strongly into Europe,” Jones said.

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