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Let the HDTV Rain

One of the primary obstacles to getting high-bandwidth video such as HDTV to the home via cable is the limited signal-carrying capacity of what is termed "the last mile." Currently, cable modem users share a data pipe with TV channels that can carry about 30 megabits-per-second (mbps) into their homes.

But all of this could soon change without the need to run a single new wire if one of Panasonic Digital Concepts Center's (PDCC) "incubator companies," Rainmaker Technologies, has its way. PDCC was established in 1998 to "incubate and grow innovative technologies and services," and Rainmaker says it has developed technology for unprecedented last mile "fiber speed" data capacity over existing cable and copper twisted-pair networks.

Rainmaker says its customers will get 170mbps or more. The company adds that with wavelet modulation filling the entire one gigahertz capacity of coaxial cable at 10 bits per Hertz, the ultimate capacity of the system is 10 gigabits-per-second (Gbps) for each segmented subnet, which is enough room for 500 HDTV channels on the current wire going into customers' homes.

Preventing this from happening right away will be the need to provide all of those HDTV channels at the cable company's end. However the future looks bright: Rainmaker's Paul Chin says that converting to wavelet modulation will only require "a new $10 modem chip at each end of the line. We will provide the highest data capacity at the lowest cost over existing infrastructure to enable new profit-generating applications such as digital broadcast video services and consumer electronic products in high definition television (HDTV) distribution, video on demand, HDTV on demand, and custom business data services."

Chin points out that his company's "Wavelet Engine" technology mines previously untapped capacity in existing lines "without the need to spend capital expenditures on plant upgrades. This enabling technology can benefit the whole customer chain of set-top box and head-end equipment suppliers, cable operators, service providers, and media and content providers."

PDCC's Charles C. Wu adds that, as a leader in the Japanese consumer electronics market, "Panasonic's local and global experience and influence will provide Rainmaker with the optimum resources and channels to realize 10Gbps to the home over existing cable."

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