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RGB Upgrades DBM Product to Handle H.264 Video

To help operators expand their capacity for HD on-demand programming, RGB Networks has upgraded its Dynamic Bandwidth Manager (DBM) product so that it can handle the MPEG-4 and H.264 video formats.

As a result of the upgrade, the product, which is billed as producing bandwidth savings of around 50% for MPEG-2 VOD streams, can now handle both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4/H.264 streams

“VOD services are going through the roof and are forecasted to put even more demands on networks,” said RGB director of product marketing Nabil Kanaan. “With the growing quantity of high-definition VOD content, the deployment of remote storage DVRs from the likes of Cablevision and with Time Warner Cable’s Start Over service, you really need a lot of capacity in your network. Our DBM gives operators a very efficient, cost-effective way to free up bandwidth.”

RGB’s DBM product, which when introduced in September of 2008 was capable of handing MPEG-2 streams, continually adjusts the bit rates of individual programs based on a statistical multiplexing algorithm. With MPEG-2 content, it is capable of reducing the amount of bandwidth needed for VOD streams by around 50%.

Because MPEG-4 compression already dramatically reduces the amount of bandwidth needed, the savings for H.264 VOD content is much less -- around 2% to 8% of bandwidth -- Kanaan said.

Adding the ability to handle H.264 VOD is particularly important internationally, where the transition to digital has been slower. “In the U.S., you have a huge installed base of MPEG-2-only set-top boxes, but in international markets you have less of a legacy problem,” Kanaan explained. “A lot of markets are just going digital now and in many cases they want to leapfrog [MPEG-2] and go directly to H.264 streams.”

In the U.S. the vast majority of boxes currently shipping to multichannel providers are H.264 capable, but it will probably be years before the transition from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 is completed.

In the meantime, the need to deliver both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 streams “is creating huge workflow and content-management challenges for operators,” Kanaan said.

The need to continue to deliver MPEG-2 VOD streams during this extended transition will make RGB’s DBM product and its 50% reduction of bandwidth requirements particularly appealing, Kanaan claimed.

RGB is pitching the product as a simpler, less costly method for freeing up capacity. Kanaan noted that many operators are now reaching the limit of their excess capacity on their hybrid fiber coaxial networks, requiring them to do a “lot of outside plant work or do a truck roll to the edge of the network to push fiber deeper into the serving area and resegment the network.”

Analog reclamation has also proved more costly than expected. “Compared to all the other options, analog switchback has actually proved to be extremely expensive and we’ve seen some of those analog shutdowns slow down so that operators can conserve cash,” he said.

In contrast, Kanaan noted that the DBM is typically installed at the headend and simply plugs into existing deployments. “It is operationally simpler and if deployed in a strategic way will allow them to avoid having to resegment the network to meet the growing demand” for HD VOD, he said.