Streaming video breakthrough made

The companies announced the product in a statement Thursday, timed to coincide with the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam.

"The main application is video-on-demand over telephone lines," said Snell & Wilcox spokesman Kevin Melia. "It's the most exciting application, because prior to this it's not been possible to do this." The combination of his company's compression television technology and Equator's MAP-CA (Media Accelerated Processor) chip, he added, will enable content providers to send movie-quality video over ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) and DSL (digital subscriber line) links.

"The Holy Grail, if you will, is to produce convincing pictures at a low bandwidth," Melia continued. "The target of less than a megabit is what we've been working on with Equator. This achievement is pretty spectacular ... we're not saying VHS is a superb quality, but it is a target everyone understands; it's an acceptable level."

The product, dubbed "VHS-plus/Megabit-minus," will allow broadband system operators to offer video programming via a set-top box at half the bandwidth of competing technologies, said Melia. It will be marketed to providers, such as telephone companies, beginning in the fourth quarter of this year, he added.

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