VOD upconverters get small

Integrating Microtune chipset into nCube servers trims headend space, power needs
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Hardware manufacturer nCube will integrate a new upconverter chipset developed by Microtune into its n4 VOD servers in a move that will allow cable operators to save rack space and reduce power requirements in cable headends.

Microtune began developing the chipset nearly two years ago, according to Chief Strategy Officer Jim Fontaine. "We've taken the functionality of a 19-inch rack-mounted upconverter unit and put it down to three chips," he says.

Fontaine believes the approach taken by Microtune and nCube will reduce space needs for upconverters by 90% and power needs by 40%.

Each chipset can handle 10 digital video streams. Four chipsets (for a total of 40 streams) will be contained on Microtune's VideoCaster MT5000 MicroModule, which will be integrated into the server on a PCI card. Each server has five PCI slots.

Integrating external components into its VOD server line is something nCube has done before. Jay Schuller, senior vice president, broadband strategy and product management, says the company has already integrated QAM into its VOD server. Adding the upconverter next year is the next step.

"With VOD systems, whether movies, subscription-on-demand, PVR or HDTV," says Schuller, "bringing external rack space down to zero and reducing costs is beneficial to the services in general."

The density and capabilities of the MicroModules permit support of individual-frequency-assignable upconversion. "You can map the frequencies into different optical nodes in the cable plant and give a better level of redundancy," Schuller explains. "So if there's a failure of part of the VOD system, you don't lose an entire service group in your VOD operation."

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