There were many products that caught my attention at this years SCTE's Cable-Tec Expo (http://expo.scte.org/). Some where improvements to existing products and others where just new. For those of you unable to attend or too busy with booth duty, I'm going to cover what caught my eye. I tried to stop and or look at every booth but might have missed a product. If that's the case please get in touch with me and let me know why your product deserves a review too. So without further ado the coolest products on the floor which are also recent introductions to the market will be covered by one product per post and in no particular order, so keep reading as the awesomeness unfolds...
Having designed dozens of test labs with up to 1 GHz of mixed analog and digital QAM loading, I have years of experience with racks and racks of equipment. Including numerous QAM modulators and upconverters and the ubiquitous "big blue" Matrix multi-channel generators. Next are the interconnection of numerous GPIB cables, 50-75 OHM matching pads, splitters, cables, PCs, interface cards, etc. It starts to rival the equivalent of hub-site specifically for the purpose of simulating the RF loading of a live cable TV (CATV) plant. Why? Because all of the products developed for field deployment, like RF & fiber optic transport equipment, passives, and test & measurement equipment MUST be tested and often calibrated under near real-world conditions.
At this year's Cable-Tec Expo, Rohde & Schwarz (www.rohde-schwarz.com) introduced a 1U Cable Load Generator (CLG) capable of simulating cable TV networks with full channel loading. This baby is not just limited to North America, but can do channel plans for the World over! Here are the highlights:
The product seemed to good to be true, so I pushed them further to see if you could mix things up and sure enough you can build a complex plant consisting of NTSC, PAL, Annex A, B, and C modulations in 64- and 256-QAM. There is a limitation that the Annex must be the same across roughly 10 channels as I recall, but still an amazing system. Further, the QAM channels self-generate random data (PRBS) which include a FEC block at the end so that test equipment can achieve lock and make accurate BER / MER measurements. Streaming in your own data also gives you the ability to run tests with MPEG analyzers - very cool!
Here are is a screen shot of the output from the CLG with a mix of analog, 64-QAM and 256-QAM signals up to nearly 1 GHz:
Unfortunately I do not have personal hands on experience with the product in my lab (but I'd love a loner for further evaluation) and my credit card did not have a high enough limit to leave with one of these units (roughly US$100k), but this is definitely something that I would appreciate having in my lab based on what I saw at the show. For those of you interested in getting one for yours, this is a brand new product for Rohde & Schwarz, so put your order in now as there will be a line forming. Rohde & Schwarz has a reputation for quality products and the introduction of this full channel loading generator maybe just what every lab needs.
Learn more about the R&S Cable Load Generator (CLG) HERE.