Cox Communications was a pioneer in 2007 when it began its total system upgrade to a 1 GHz cable plant. Since then, Time Warner has also completed a limited number of 1 GHz upgrades in Los Angeles and Texas. These upgrades were made possible by the advancements in Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) gain blocks now universally deployed in cable amplifiers and nodes. Up until now, the one limitation with frequency bandwidth extensions of the legacy HFC plant has been that the GaAs output levels were only sufficient to take 750 MHz or 870 MHz networks up to 1 GHz without re-spacing the amplifier locations and changing out a large number of tap values. There was no solution for older 550 MHz systems that are still in use except to basically start over. However, as demand for bandwidth continues to escalate, there’s reason to reconsider spectrum extensions. The problem for operators is expense. It costs money not only to extend the network range, but also to add new amplifiers and re-space existing ones for greater bandwidth reach. Fortunately, on the amplifier front, there is a new, more powerful solution—Gallium Nitride (GaN).
Motorola has adapted semiconductor technology using Gallium Nitride to increase amplifier output by 100 percent. The technology was originally developed by the government for satellite applications in space, but now that we’ve refitted it for a 24-volt cable TV environment, it brings new advantages to cable operators. Increased amplifier output means MSOs can upgrade their cable plants without incurring additional costs around moving and adding amplifier equipment. Motorola’s GaN engine also incorporates patented linearization enhancements that provide significantly improved distortion performance compared to the properties of standard Gallium Nitride devices. The increased performance is enough to support an extended spectrum range, whether a service provider is looking to move to a 1 GHz network, or even beyond the 1 GHz threshold.
There’s been high interest across our customer base in implementing Gallium Nitride technology, for both upgrading existing legacy networks and new greenfield deployments using GaN in Latin America and the Caribbean. Not only that, we have at least one customer exploring a plant upgrade to take its network above 1 GHz. Bandwidth demand is insatiable, and there’s money to be made in satisfying that demand. As Leslie Ellis recently reported in a retrospective piece, early efforts at on-demand television a decade ago caused system overloads. Cable operators don’t want that to happen today. Instead, they want to be able to increase VOD options, HD content and Internet speeds. Cost-effective plant upgrades can help them do that, while also paying off in revenue increases.
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