Finding the right channel

Vecima Networks

March 27, 2009— Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Image from Vecima Netorks

With more than 90 percent of Canadian households watching television through a coaxial cable connection, this technology has become crucial to one of the country's dominant forms of media and communication. And while the outlet in most people's homes may look much the same as it did a generation ago, the broadcasting systems that feed data into that outlet, and the services provided to subscribers, have become much more sophisticated.

Vecima Networks, based in Saskatoon, has played a key part in the evolution of these systems.

"We basically grew with the expansion of cable TV," explains COO Hugh Wood, outlining the company's development since the 1980s.

Initially, Vecima designed and built equipment to convert satellite signals into a format that could be transmitted over cable and received by conventional television sets. More recently, the firm has developed the hardware and software to enable broadband Internet service to be delivered over cable; today they supply about 50 percent of the world market for this product.

In addition, the company is now meeting the challenge posed by digital video, and especially video on demand, which will enable cable subscribers to start watching a program at any time of their choosing, stopping and resuming the transmission at will, as though they were viewing a DVD. Vecima is now dealing with the complexities of providing a wide array of digital services – including Internet access – through a television set. The company has also developed powerful wireless broadband capabilities in the new WiMax arena.

Major multinational corporations such as Cisco and Motorola are in the market to supply complete systems. Vecima – with just over 800 employees – has been able to develop and supply critical components to them, thanks to the support of the National Research Council Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP).

This federal initiative offers a range of both technical and business-oriented advisory services along with potential financial support to growth-oriented, small- and medium-sized Canadian enterprises. Delivered by an extensive integrated network of Industrial Technology Advisors (ITAs) – a group of some 240 professionals in 100 communities across the country – NRC-IRAP supports innovative research, development, and commercialization of new products and services.

"We basically needed to put more investment than we could afford ourselves into R&D and product development," says Dr. Wood, emphasizing the need to bring innovations quickly into the market established by cable television and new wireless services. "NRC-IRAP really helped us financially to be able to ramp up our R&D activity and get things done quickly to get into these markets."

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