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e-BOX to Demo MPEG4-Based Cable System for HDTV

Platform allows cable companies to broadcast more high definition television (HDTV) programs By Charlie White
e-BOX Corporation, today announced its intentions to establish demonstration centers in Silicon Valley and Burbank, for the development and presentation of its MPEG-4-based cable system. The joint venture company, which consists of seven large electronics corporations (see below) supports the move, based on interest generated from private showings to members of the cable industry at the Cable2002 show hosted by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) in New Orleans.

The Silicon Valley demonstration center will be located at member company Sigma Designs' headquarters and is slated to open June 2002. The demonstration center will provide a convenient venue for ongoing demonstrations to cable providers and will serve as the initial point of system integration and validation.

The Burbank demonstration center will be located at member company Modern VideoFilm's headquarters beginning July 2002. This center will demonstrate unique MPEG-4 capabilities of compression and authoring.

By advancing the use of high efficiency MPEG-4 compression, the e-BOX cable system allows cable operators to free up a larger portion of their bandwidth for enhanced offerings. In addition to expanding the number of digital TV channels, the e-BOX platform allows cable companies to broadcast a number of high definition television (HDTV) programs while still maintaining their full complement of regular (standard definition) programs. Alternatively, the bandwidth savings can be applied to expanding video-on-demand and e-rental applications to generate incremental revenue streams.

The incentive to establish the new demonstration center stemmed from the company's recent meetings at Cable2002, in which e-BOX demonstrated the cable industry's first MPEG-4 broadcast network solution. The demonstration used a panoramic bank of television sets and corresponding set-top boxes to show 15 independent broadcast quality programs, encoded in MPEG-4 format, streamed over a single 8 Mhz Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) channel. In marked contrast to existing MPEG-2 based schemes that typically provide only six programs per 6 Mhz channel, e-BOX demonstrated the superior compression of MPEG-4 technology. In future versions of its MPEG-4 network solution, e-BOX expects to demonstrate up to 24 programs per channel using MPEG-4 compression. This demonstration also proved that cable operators can leverage two-way plants to exploit the interactive nature of MPEG-4, providing VCR-like controls of on-demand programming and other new value-added services.

The recent NCTA demonstration was also a milestone in joint development and integration of the various e-BOX partner technologies: Pioneer provided overall management of the event which featured MPEG-4 content from Modern VideoFilm; the MPEG-4 content was encoded by iVAST and streamed from an iVAST Media Server, which was decoded and displayed by a set-top box featuring the Sigma MPEG-4 decoder and streaming software and the National Geode processor; and the final video output was then displayed on flat-screen televisions from Sharp. Also providing technical support was SkyStream Networks who supplied the 64 QAM multiplexor and demultiplexor.

"Our joint venture is clearly demonstrating that our core MPEG-4 technology is viable, that we are making progress, and that our team can deliver a jointly developed solution," said Dr. Masao Sugimoto, president of e-BOX and executive corporate engineering adviser of Pioneer Corporation. "Over the next 12 months, we intend to create a compelling option for cable companies and enable their ascent to the next generation of programming with high quality, high definition, interactive television."

About e-BOX Corporation
e-BOX is a joint venture corporation that is developing a new digital cable system, based on MPEG-4 technology and focused on delivering enhanced video on demand and interactive TV services. Targeting North American and Asia-Pacific cable operators, the company intends to provide a complete infrastructure that includes head-end equipment, system software, content-protection systems and digital set-top boxes to enable scheduled and on-demand MPEG-4-encoded content and interactive services. The company is based in Tokyo and includes five publicly traded companies: Pioneer Corporation, Sharp Corporation, National Semiconductor Corporation, Sigma Designs and CMC Magnetics; as well as two privately held companies, iVAST Inc. and Modern VideoFilm Inc. The company is being assisted by Comcast Cable Communications in a technical advisory and field validation capacity.

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Related Keywords:e-BOX Corporation, demonstration centers, Silicon Valley, Burbank, MPEG-4-based cable system, HDTV channels

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