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Liberty Global puts cash into HD video WiFi specialist

US cable specialist Liberty Global , which holds cable TV networks in half a dozen European countries as well as in Latin America and one of the large

By PETER WHITE

Published: 18 November, 2010

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US cable specialist Liberty Global , which holds cable TV networks in half a dozen European countries as well as in Latin America and one of the largest cable operators in the world, has taken an investment position in an Israeli start-up which appears to have cracked the business of sending HD TV around a home on WiFi.

In September, Liberty Global chose Celeno’s WiFi technology to power its multimedia home gateway and has now thrown its hand in with previous investors Cisco, Greylock Partners, Miven Venture Partners, and Pitango Venture Capital.

The fuss about Celeno first came about when it announced that it had won a deal which effectively puts its chips onto the China Telecom network, for use with Shanghai Telecom IPTV, through a local supplier FiberHome back in July.

It’s next major deal, announced a day or two before the IBC show in Amsterdam in September was with Liberty Global’s cable operations which puts the Celeno CL1820 chip into set tops and home gateways throughout 2011. Celeno’s very first customers were a clutch of small US incumbent telcos in the Spring and it says that more Tier 1 players are about to announce deals in Europe.

“We invested in Celeno because their carrier-grade Wi-Fi technology is a cornerstone for delivering video throughout the home and it will be a key component in our multimedia home gateways,” said Bruce Dines, VP of Technology Investing for Liberty Global Ventures. “We were impressed with Celeno’s technology and market leadership and believe that Celeno is well positioned to address the growing needs of the cable industry for high-quality, reliable Wi-Fi solutions.”

Because all of this is implemented at the chip level, it makes it a fairly cheap way of delivering HD video around a home, rather than built at the system level like some rivals systems, and Celeno is now tracking down all of the IPTV operators in Europe and offering them a chance to shift to a zero packet loss version of WiFi for in-home video transport.

While no-one can really back up the claim that any WiFi is completely loss free, the Celeno OptimizAIR technology goes some way to improving on the standard 802.11 PHY and MAC layers by adding extra algorithms. It does things like taking feedback from each device it is sending to, on the condition of a variety of possible beams and then every 10 milliseconds it re-assigns its workload to another set of routes or beams. Beamforming like this is used by Ruckus Wireless (for instance) but it has less flexibility and less channel and beam creation options.

The idea is that a QoS component of the logic calculates in advance if any of the multipath routes that it might send the data over can sustain the packet and ensure that it arrives quickly enough. The reallocation of workloads across different radios and different antenna, 3 radios and 6 antennas, is recalculated on a packet by packet basis. So as people walk around a room or things are left blocking a particular signal, the system can be dynamically re-allocated to different channels using different multipath routes which the chip “knows” will work and offer sufficient bandwidth to get the job done. Basic WiFi loses about 15% of packets because this type of beamforming is not standard, and on video delivery in a home that would ruin any picture.

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