Scientific-Atlanta Inc. made an undisclosed equity investment in BridgeWave Communications Inc., a wireless-broadband technology developer based in Sunnyvale, Calif.
The investment and use of BridgeWave's fixed-wireless technology could help cable operators tap a new source of revenue-small and midsized business customers, the set-top maker said.
S-A said it intends to integrate BridgeWave's technology into its "Prisma" fiber nodes, enabling MSOs to offer wireless high-speed services over cable lines.
BridgeWave's fixed-wireless wares provide a natural fit into hybrid-fiber coax infrastructure and can be deployed over networks that use DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) standards, S-A vice president of marketing and network architectures Paul Connolly said.
"That's what intrigued us," Connolly added, noting that BridgeWave can take a 6-megahertz cable channel and extend it without wires. "We can remotely drop in up to 40 megabits of traffic to carry voice and data services with DOCSIS 1.1 over IP (Internet protocol) and drop in voice ports as well."
That technology is designed to extend the value of a cable network, allowing operators to target small businesses users they don't typically serve.
"The beauty of it is that [operators] don't need to put in an entirely new infrastructure to go after that market," Connolly said. "From the fiber node, where we would put the base transmitter, we can either go directly to users or go point-to-point or point-to-multipoint. Offering a double hop will give cable operators a chance to attract a customer base in a given area."
S-A envisions cable operators mounting receivers smaller than a direct-to-home dish on the side of a building.
"Cable operators won't need to dig a trench and run a fiber to the building to attack that market and start generating incremental revenue," Connolly said.
Bridgewave is currently "shaking down" the technology, and probably won't be ready for primetime until sometime next summer or fall, the S-A executive said.
In the meantime, S-A plans to install the wireless infrastructure at its Sugar Loaf, Ga., campus and show off the technology to potential customers.
S-A has made recent investments in other start-ups such as Alloptic Inc., Bookham Technology plc and Luminous Networks Inc. to help the company fill technology gaps for future cable operator needs.
S-A's stake in Bridgewave falls in the 5 percent to 10 percent equity range, Connolly said.
"Our general philosophy is to make equity investments that give us access to technology and influence on the design," Connolly noted. "We're not generally interested in making wholesale acquisitions."