V-Bits Challenges Imedias CherryPicker

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There's a new entry on the shortlist of
statistical-multiplexing players, and it is aiming to leverage its ties with Texas
Instruments Inc. for programmable chips and with Harmonic Lightwaves Inc. for its existing
cable relationships.

V-Bits Inc., a two-year-old Silicon Valley start-up
headquartered in San Jose, Calif., came out of the laboratory recently with what it calls
"RateMux," saying that the device will give Imedia Corp.'s similar
"CherryPicker" a competitive rumble.

David Beddow, CEO of Tele-Communications Inc.'s
National Digital Television Center -- where its Headend in the Sky feed originates -- said
he's aware of V-Bits' strategy and he likes it.

"I think that the approach that the V-Bits folks have
is a bit better, actually, than what Imedia is doing. However, [V-Bits is] not as far
along as Imedia," Beddow said.

Ji Zhang, chief technical officer and cofounder of V-Bits,
said RateMux offers operators a way to readjust digital-channel lineups at the headend
after they've come off a satellite. RateMux also handles the tricky business of
inserting a digitally encoded advertisement into an existing digital-broadcast stream, he
said.

Zhang labeled the product line a "bandwidth-management
solution," explaining that without something like RateMux, operators cannot alter
digital-programming lineups to suit subscribers' needs.

"That translates into reduced revenues and a prolonged
payback period for capital-equipment purchases," Zhang said.

At the core of V-Bits' technique is a software-based
statistical-multiplexing algorithm that differs from alternative techniques because it
sits on TI's new 6000x-series chip. This translates into affordability, because the
chips cost between $25 and $130 each, Zhang said. Plus, the chips were designed to be
fully programmable, meaning that operators that want to tweak RateMux's performance
after the product is installed can do so.

Harmonic has agreed to license RateMux, and it will build
the technology into its "TRANsend" line of digital-headend gear. Ed Thomson,
vice president of business development for Harmonic, said in a prepared statement that
V-Bits' "compelling knowledge and expertise in the digital production
environment was translated into a highly optimized solution."

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