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Harmonic Bows 'HectoQAM'

Harmonic has more than quadrupled the density of its NSG 9000 edge QAM platform with the debut of the "HectoQAM," which can pack up to 648 quadrature amplitude modulation channels for digital cable services into a 3.5-inch-high box.

The HectoQAM provides up to 36 QAMs per port, for delivering video-on-demand, broadcast, switched digital video, modular CMTSs for DOCSIS 3.0 and cable IPTV services. That yields up to 648 QAMs per two-rack-unit chassis, compared with a maximum of 144 for the vendor's previous generation of edge QAMs.

In addition, the product -- officially dubbed the NSG 9000-40G -- provides EQAM Virtualization software and frequency agility to let operators place QAMs across the spectrum. "You can create a whole spectrum of QAMs. You aren't limited by the number of QAMs you can generate out of a given port," said Harmonic senior manager of cable solutions and strategy Yoav Derazon.

Initial customer shipments of the HectoQAM are scheduled to begin next month. Harmonic presented its vision for the HectoQAM two and a half years ago, at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers' Conference on Emerging Technologies.

The NSG 9000-40G supports 40 Gigabits per second of input (compared with the previous generation's 6 Gbps), with both 1- and 10-Gbps interfaces. The 36 QAMs per port applies to North America and other regions where channel spacing is 6 MHz. For systems with 8-MHz channels, the maximum is 27 QAMs per port and 486 overall in a 2-RU chassis.

"Hecto" is derived from the Greek word for "hundred," and the HectoQAM platform could at some point provide 100 QAMs per port or more, Derazon said. Today, though, such a high-density edge QAM would be costly and far exceed any cable operator's requirements, he noted.

"There will be another hardware revision two to three years from now" that could make 100 QAMs per port feasible, Derazon said. "However, we definitely made a big leap with this product."

Harmonic is not disclosing pricing for the HectoQAM, but Derazon said the per-QAM price will be competitive with "octo-QAM" products (8 QAMs per port) currently on the market.

The NSG 9000-40G's mainboard and blades use the existing NSG 9000 chassis, and the HectoQAM blades are hot-swappable, which means they can be added or removed without powering down the entire system. Up to nine HectoQAM blades, each with two ports, fit into the chassis.

Harmonic has shipped more than 1 million QAMs since introducing its first NSG edge QAMs product in 2000. The vendor expects to show the HectoQAM at IBC 2010, Sept. 10-14 in Amsterdam.