Mon, 13 November 2006
On November 6, 2006, BroadLogic Network Technologies, a San Jose chip manufacturer, announced The World's First Massively Parallel, Multi-Channel Video Processor, a terapixel-speed video processing chip that will allow cable providers to recover bandwidth that can then be used to deliver more high definition channels, video on demand and high bandwidth data services without major network upgrades.
Mike: Gordon, before we discuss the Boradlogic product, can you give us an idea of how current cable delivery systems work?
Traditional cable delivery systems work by allocating 6MHz of analog bandwidth for each channel. Most cable providers offer approximately 80 channels that consume (6 MHz/channel x 80 channels) 480 MHz of bandwidth. Typical cable networks provide only 750 MHz of bandwidth and with 480 MHz used for video, there is not much left for other services.
Let's think about this a little bit more - one channel consumes 6 MHz of bandwidth but it takes 480 MHz of bandwidth to deliver that single channel to your TV while "wasting" (480 MHz - 6 Mhz) 474 MHz of bandwidth. Not very efficient even if you have a few TV's going in your house watching different channels at the same time. In summary and according to an article at Light Reading and linked in the show notes:
Each analog channel consumes 6 MHz of capacity (or roughly 1/125th of the total capacity of an upgraded cable plant). Re-claiming that channel slot frees up enough capacity to launch 2 more channels in HDTV (each of which consumes about 2.4 MHz), or ten more digital Standard Definition (SD) channels (each of which consumes about 0.6 MHz), another ten QAMs, each capable of delivering an additional VOD stream, or more broadband [Internet] capacity.
Many of the hundreds of digital broadcast TV channels a cable operator delivers are not being watched at any given time. It is a network inefficiency that can be remedied by simply switching off those channels that are not being watched. By reclaiming much of this analog spectrum, splitting fiber nodes, and employing switched broadcast video (SBV) techniques, there is lots of room for cable to expand service offerings, including HDTV and VOD.
SBV has attracted major interest to this point and involves the delivery of all 80 or so channels in digital format Ã¢ï¿½ï¿½ it works but requires every attached TV in the house to be connected through a set-top box with each box having its own remote controller - we have 6 connected TVs in my home now so 6 boxes plus 6 more controllers - expensive and we have enough time keeping track of a single remote.
Light Reading says Comcast Corp. has an aggressive plan to cut the average number of analog channels it carries in half over the next five years, from 70 to 35. That means moving some three dozen basic cable networks from analog to digital-only carriage.
This is where things get interesting:
Until digital penetration reaches 100% being left off the analog tier means reduced distribution. And that means lower affiliate fees, and lower advertising revenue.
It's gonna be slow because subscribers will not want to pay for the extra boxes, will not have room for them on their shelves, etc.
This means the programmers will fight this tooth and nail. Ironically, it is SBV that may well help prove their case is built on a house of cards. Cable TV programming networks sell themselves to advertisers based on their total distribution footprint - say 40, 60, or 80 million homes. The metric is bogus, as only a small fraction of homes are viewing it. With SBV, MSOs will have all the statistical details on who is watching, and eventually, so will advertisers.
Mike: So last week along comes Broadlogic, what does this product do?
According to Broadlogic website:
The BL80000 TeraPIX chip is capable of decoding dozens of digital video streams and generating a full analog and digital service tier, including an 80-plus analog channel lineup, that any number of cable-ready devices (TVs, DVRs, PCs with tuner cards, etc.) can view, plus up to 160SD or 50HD programs.
The TeraPIX processor powers a new type of Residential Gateway, installed outside or just inside a residence, which allows the network to be all-digital, while subscribers continue to receive the cable-ready analog video, digital video, high speed data and voice services they crave. Conventional set-top boxes output one channel at a time and thus feed only one TV. Cable MSOs can use this technology to take their networks all digital, thus tripling their digital capacity at a time when rising content and competitive requirements demand it.
Mike: It sounds like the Broadlogic chip may be a much more cost effective solution - can you give more detail?
More according to Broadlogic website:
The BroadLogic TeraPIX video processor works by decoding bandwidth-conserving digital video signals delivered by a cable operator, and generating 80-plus high-quality channels of television. Cable operators get their extra bandwidth, and consumers get the channel lineups they're used to without having to get more set-tops, run more coax, or lose more remotes.
The TeraPIX processor enables solutions that support virtually all existing analog and digital consumer devices. For example, if a subscriber has a DVR set-top from their cable operator, the digital signals are passed through TeraPIX to the DVR.
The price of an individual chip is around $300 when purchased in bulk (1000 or greater numbers) and cable companies are saying this could be a cost effective way to increase network bandwidth.
The technology is moving at such an incredible pace and it is easy to see more bandwidth and more applications and, from an academic perspective, the ability to provide more and more quality IP delivered content to our students at a distance. Very exciting stuff and - what's next??
Mike: Let's change the subject a bit - I know you took a train ride last week and performed an interesting "experiment". Can you fill us in with some details?
On Tuesday I had an excellent visit with the Borough of Manhattan Community College Video Arts and Technology Program (http://www.bmcc.cuny.edu/speech/VAT/VAT.html ) faculty and administrators. BMCC has an NSF project grant titled "Creatiing Career Pathways for Women and Minorities in Digital Video Technology" , an exciting project with an HDTV focus. We're looking forward to lots of good results from the VAT group at BMCC.
Instead of driving I took the AMTRAK train down to New York City from Springfield, MA. I had my notebook computer with me and on the way home, as I was doing some work, I decided to let NetStumbler ( http://netstumbler.com/ ) run in the background. NetStumbler is a Windows application that allows you to detect 802.11b, 802.11a and 802.11g Wireless Local Area Network Access Points (WLAN AP's). In addition to Netstumbler, there is MacStumbler for Macintosh computers, and Kismet for machines running Linux.
Many people use Netstumbler for wardriving that involves driving a car around with a wireless enabled laptop or PDA and logging wireless Wi-Fi networks. According to the Netstumbler website wardriving was first started in the San Francisco area by the Bay Area Wireless Users Group (BAWUG) and is similar to using a scanner for radio. Many wardrivers will use GPS devices to find the exact location of the network found and log it on a website. In fact, if you have a GPS device attached to your computer Netstumbler will automatically log the latitude and longitude settings for future reference. There are several active databases on the web that maintain lists of open hotspots - one of them is maintained and accessed via the Netstumbler site.
In the train I started up Netstumbler on my PC at the New Rochelle, NY stop and just let it run until I got to Springfield, MA with some interesting results. Netstumbler logs, among other things, the access point MAC address, SSID and whether or not the AP is running any kind of encryption. An un-encryped access point is one that is wide open for access. Between New Rochelle and Springfield I logged 1441 access points, many unencryped and wide open for public access. SSIDs were sometimes very descriptive and I found open access points from at least one large insurance company, one law firm and the 36th floor conference room of an unknown company. I also got a kick out of some of the creative SSID names people are using.
Hundreds of the access points still had the Vendor SSID with linksys, NETGEAR and default [note: SSID default is commonly used by no-name routers sold by the big box retailers] popping up on my screen as we rocked along the tracks at 60 mph. Hundreds were setup for open access - I could not actually log in to any because we were moving to fast but I'm convinced I could walk the tracks from New Rochelle to Springfield and maintain free wireless access by piggy-backing on these networks.
I don't want to get into a debate on what's legal and what is not - my concern is seeing so many open access points with many likely connected directly into corporate networks. I thought we had this security problem licked but it appears many are still buying these things and just plugging them in.
Anyone want to carry a load of batteries?
Netstumbler Website: http://www.netstumbler.com
BROADLOGIC UNCLOAKS CABLEÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½S SECRET WEAPON; Nov 6, 2006; http://broadlogic.com/11062006press.htmLight Reading: http://www.lightreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=106730