HFC platform accepts analog and digital service upgrades

HFC platform accepts analog and digital service upgrades

BEN HARRISON

An international hybrid fiber/coaxial-cable-network (HFC) platform has been developed by Scientific-Atlanta Inc., Norcross, GA, to support advanced broadband network systems based on compliance criteria from standards groups and the company`s European customer base.

Called Adaptis, the HFC platform permits migration from trunk and feeder type architectures to fiber-to-the-curb networks (see figure). Its modularity accommodates new technologies as interactive networks evolve, enabling the primary investment to remain operational.

Tim McElgunn, managing analyst for Northern Business Information, Delran, NJ, observes that Scientific-Atlanta is moving to address issues that have arisen as cable-TV operators have begun the work of deploying advanced services over cable networks. "A number of the system`s features address requirements of newly competitive markets: fast upgrades, network powering of home terminals, and improved network monitoring capabilities," McElgunn says.

"The system`s modular design and migration/evolution features acknowledge the reality that the vast majority of cable-TV operators cannot afford to make massive short-term investments to begin delivering advanced services for which demand remains uncertain at best. They will have to make incremental upgrades to their existing systems, deploying them selectively in areas where early demand is most likely," he observes.

Providing 870-MH¥bandwidth capacity, the platform enables network operators in Europe and other international markets to carry programs in the UHF spectrum without requiring customers to use analog set-top terminals. Additionally, the ultrahigh passband permits customers to add signaling or data carriers above the normal 862-MH¥spectrum and allows full use of the forward spectrum for video and ancillary revenue-producing signals.

"Both analog and digital services--including voice, broadcast video, and data--are available on Adaptis network products," says Mark Palazzo, director of the RF Electronics Business Unit for Scientific-Atlanta and director of the platform`s development. "The primary benefit for customers is upgradability," he says. "Depending on housing density, 100 subscribers can be served off a node in the United Kingdom."

The platform was demonstrated at the Western Cable Show in Anaheim, CA, last month for North American customers and was presented recently in London at the European Communications Conference. The Adaptis platform is being released in two phases. Phase one includes a 15-A through-current capability.

This feature supports system-powered customer interfaces for telephony, data, video-on-demand, and Internet access. Phase two, which includes additional reverse modules and advanced fiber features, is planned for the first half of 1997.

According to Perry Tanner, Scientific-Atlanta`s vice president and general manager of transmission systems, this platform was developed specifically for global deployment to meet the needs for increased bandwidth, greater current-carrying capacity, and adaptability in amplifier-station configurations.

Analysts` insights

John M. Celentano, president of Skyline Marketing Group, Owings Mills, MD, notes, "Adaptis`s increased bandwidth-carrying capacity, full range of services--including analog, and video, one-way broadcast, and two-way multimedia--and flexible in-field modifications put the system at the leading edge of HFC designs."

He expects some enhancements designed for Adaptis to be incorporated into Scientific-Atlanta HFC markets for North American markets. "U.S. cable-TV operators, in particular, are saddled with high operating costs and have gained a reputation for poor customer service. A system like Adaptis can help lower operating cost curves, improve customer service levels, and open up potential revenue streams," Celentano comments.

"All of this technology comes at a price," he observes. Celentano expects the Adaptis system, on a first-cost basis, to be priced at a premium to the $750-per-subscriber going rate for HFC systems on the market today.

Stephen Montgomery, vice president and chief operating officer of ElectroniCast Corp., in San Mateo, CA, says that the need for HFC platforms such as Adaptis is driven by strong growth in broadband, digital TV, videophone, and video-on-demand services. "Cable-TV operators who have been pushing fiber deeper into their HFC networks to more-efficiently serve their video-entertainment subscribers hope to piggyback voice and data services on HFC," Montgomery observes.

He notes that service providers, looking ahead at the expected strong but volatile growth of both services revenue and competition, are focusing on how to deploy at least a minimal broadband residential network at minimum cost and risk and how to move quickly to offer services most likely to come under strong competitive attack.

Network operators` voice needs

Scientific-Atlanta says that European network operators identified the following important network requirements: a platform capable of factory-configuration as either an RF amplifier or a fiber node, the capacity to upgrade RF stations to fiber nodes in the field, and full-featured status monitoring.

International telecommunications agencies and associations stressed reliability and elimination of both the immediate chassis and the automatic gain-control functions as priorities.

To meet these objectives, Scientific-Atlanta describes the Adaptis platform as both an RF amplifier and a fiber receiver. This flexibility makes the fiber capability of Adaptis easier and less expensive to achieve than competing platforms. Other platforms require replacement of the entire station, and, in some instances, the entire platform, to accomplish any degree of upgrade. q

(pull quote)

"The primary benefit for customers is upgradability."

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