Drake Aims Hybrid Device at Indies, MDUs

R.L. Drake last week introduced a hybrid transcoding, multiplexing edge QAM device, the MEQ1000, touting it at the Independent Show as a solution for small cable operators. (For the announcement, click here). But the device will soon be available to larger operators for their multiple dwelling unit (MDU) deployments.

Hence, one reason for the “hybrid” label, said David Ruffin, director of new business development at Drake.

As the cable industry matures, verticals such as MDUs and hotels offer growing revenue streams. Maybe that’s why executives from Comcast presented at this year’s Broadband Properties Summit in Dallas, pitching cable as the best choice for MDU owners and operators. (For more, click here.)

Drake’s Digital MEQ1000 is a multiplexer, processor, QAM modulator and converter all-in-one, housed within a single rack-unit-sized modular platform. It has bays for up to two hot-swappable input modules.

Drake is working on a variation of the MEQ1000 that will utilize its two bays to deliver programming specific to MDUs or hotels. The technology is known as “digital drop and add,” said Ruffin.

MSOs that have gone all digital and want to serve MDUs often need specific content for those properties, such as community channels. But they don’t want to put that content on their networks and pass it by every customer. They need to add those channels (typically analog) on site.

First, they have to convert those channels to digital, which means MPEG encoding, said Ruffin. Then they must remove the same number of channels from the system and replace them with the community channels.

The Drake MEQ1000 will put a DTD1000 demodulator in one module-based slot and an SDE 24 encoder in the other module-based slot, explained Ruffin. The cable will run through the device and then can be configured to filter out the unwanted programs and tune to the community channels.

Drake expects to launch the digital drop and add version of its MEQ1000 in first quarter 2010.

More reading

Drake is not the first vendor to have entered the local encoding and MDU markets. Radiant Communications launched an encoder/digital channel groomer two years ago. (Click here for the announcement.) The importance of video to the mix of business services was the theme of a January 2008 article by EGT CTO John Hartung. (For more, click here.)

Motorola introduced a “Microencoder” in April 2009, joining Vecima Networks and ATX Networks as another supplier of MDU-specific technology.

Approaches on serving this market may vary. For a technical proposal from one operator in April 2008 on how to serve the hotels by sidestepping Pro:Idiom, click here. For the announcement of Drake’s own Pro:Idiom solution from April 2009, click here.

—Linda Hardesty