China Rolls Its Own Ethernet-over-Coax Standard
A home-brewed Ethernet-over-coax (EoC) standard underway in China could end up playing a key role in a next-generation broadband (NGB) initiative that will help the MSOs overhaul their networks to compete with the nation's powerful telcos.
HiNOC (High Performance Network Over Coax) is one of three EoC technologies approved by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of China, for the NGB project. C-Docsis and C-HomePlug are the other two.
One key difference for HiNOC is where it will live in the spectrum. Rather than occupying the low, noisy bands used by C-Docsis (for the upstream piece, anyway) and C-HomePlug, HiNOC's upstream and downstream would instead reside somewhere in the range of 750MHz to 1.6GHz, a high-RF approach.
Another big difference is that HiNOC is a Chinese-born standard (a SARFT committee is running point on the project) that aims to gain the support of multiple chip vendors. C-Docsis, for example, still has just one chip supplier -- Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) -- though more are expected to emerge if C-Docsis takes off.
A basic element of HiNOC will be orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM), a modulation scheme that squeezes small subcarriers into a super-wide channel. OFDM figures prominently in wireless and is also set to become a prime component of the new CableLabs Docsis 3.1 specs. (See Docsis 3.1 Targets 10-Gig Downstream.)
Outside of the SARFT-approved world, Entropic Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ENTR) has developed an EoC access technology based on Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) that's already been deployed by Chinese MSOs, and that could end up playing a role in HiNOC, as well (more on this later.) (See Broadcom Joins China's Cable Gold Rush .)
An initial version of HiNOC has been created for prototypes and proof-of-concept testing; a faster version, still in development, will be the one that will kick off HiNOC's mass-market push. That version is expected to target speeds of 1 Gbit/s at the headend to feed modems that can support roughly 100 Mbit/s.
Late to the party?
HiNOC products are likely two years away from mass deployment, predicts Infonetics Research Inc. analyst Jeff Heynen, who says that he's aware of only one China-based chipmaker that's even sampling HiNOC silicon at this point.
While that seemingly gives C-Docsis and C-HomePlug a huge head start, the success window for HiNOC should stay open for a while as China's thousands of MSOs begin to consolidate and make their technology selections. "There's so much organization that has to happen among these [Chinese] cable operators … before they proceed with these rollouts," Heynen says.
High on HiNOC
Entropic, which started out as a MoCA specialist, is among the suppliers keeping close tabs on HiNOC developments and intends to support the technology, says Ben Chan, Entropic's director of access marketing.
That's partly because Entropic knows a thing or two about the high frequency range. MoCA operates at up to 1.5GHz and shares some other HiNOC-ish characteristics.
Entropic also knows its way around EoC access networks and the Chinese cable market. Its c.link chips, which are based on MoCA and are used inside access network controllers and the customer premises equipment (CPE) they're paired with, are designed to produce net throughput speeds of 175 Mbit/s. Chinese cable operators using the chips include Tianjin Broadcast and TV Network Co. Ltd., Chengdu Guangda Electronic & Telecommunication Technology Development Co. Ltd; Sichuan Jiuzhou Electronic Technology Co. Ltd.; and ChangHong.
"We think we can accelerate [HiNOC's] time to market," Chan says. He says HiNOC's high-frequency RF approach can work well in China and remove attenuation issues because deployments there typically run fiber all the way to the building before the coax network takes over.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable