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Docsis 3.0 Testing Skips a Beat

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

CableLabs and multiple vendors have confirmed that no products based on the new Docsis 3.0 specifications were submitted for testing in Wave 57. However, an undisclosed number of modems and cable modem termination systems (CMTSs) are already in for the next series of tests at the Louisville, Colo.-based R&D facility.

While that means it will be mid-May before we hear whether any cable modems have become the first to obtain the Docsis 3.0 stamp, it's unclear whether that will have much of an effect on cable operator deployment plans for the platform, which supports IPv6 addressing and uses channel-bonding techniques to produce shared data speeds of greater than 100 Mbit/s.

Among U.S. operators, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has been the most open and aggressive, indicating that it expects to wire as much as 20 percent of its infrastructure for Docsis 3.0 by the end of 2008. (See Comcast Closes In on 100 Mbit/s.) Several other MSOs have dropped hints about tests and trials happening later on this year. (See RCN's 'Analog Crush' , Mediacom Adds $30M to '08 Capex, and Charter Hints at Docsis 3.0 .)

CableLabs spokesman Mike Schwartz noted that, while there are no 3.0-based products in Wave 57, "there's a good deal of [Docsis 3.0] product" already submitted for Wave 58.

Among suppliers, Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) confirmed last month it had put its flagship CMTS, the BSR 64000, in for "Bronze" qualification testing in Wave 58. (See Motorola CMTS Going for the Bronze .) By policy, CableLabs does not disclose which vendors submit products for certification and qualification testing.

According to the CableLabs certification schedule, Wave 58 got underway in late February, and results should be known by mid-May.

Wave 56, concluded late last year, marked the first official tests for Docsis 3.0. CableLabs has already awarded 3.0 Bronze or Silver 3.0 qualification to CMTSs from Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), Casa Systems Inc. , and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). Modems from Arris, Motorola, and Scientific Atlanta -- all based on silicon from Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) -- did not pass the first time through. (See Cisco, Arris & Casa Make the CableLabs Grade and TI Enters Docsis 3.0 Wave.)

Vendors, not CableLabs, made the decision to skip Wave 57 from a Docsis 3.0 standpoint. As for TI's role, the company said it passed on 57 so it could have some extra time to "shake, rattle, and roll" its modem software.

"I cannot comment for CableLabs, but I can say that TI made a conscious (and difficult) decision to forego the Wave and invest the additional three weeks or so to continue to exercise the software," said Peter Percosan, the executive director of broadband strategy for TI's Digital Connected Home Business unit, in an email to Cable Digital News. "As for the silicon, we continue to see no issues, which is very comforting."

TI also saved some money by holding off. The CableLabs fee for Docsis modem certification testing is $75,000. The fee rises to $175,000 for Docsis CMTS qualification testing.

So far, TI is the only chipmaker to develop and introduce cable modem silicon based on the full Docsis 3.0 specs. Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), another key silicon provider in the sector, has yet to make any formal announcements about its Docsis 3.0 product plans, though it has had some success in the interim with modem platforms that combine multiple Docsis 2.0 downstream channels. (See Broadcom Bonds With Docsis.)

"We've been very focused on [Docsis 3.0] and committed to it," says Jay Kirchoff, senior director of product marketing for Broadcom's cable TV business line. "We're working very hard to build the right product at the right cost point necessary for operators to compete in a marketplace that demands 3.0."

Kirchoff did not say when Broadcom will introduce a Docsis 3.0 modem chipset, but people familiar with the situation say they expect Broadcom to have something deployment-ready by the fourth quarter of 2008.

Cable Digital News will have much more about Broadcom's Docsis 3.0 plans as well as a broader market update in an upcoming story.

― Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to Docsis 3.0 Strategies: From Product Development to Service Deployment, a conference that will take a comprehensive look at the cable industry's plans to roll out its next-generation architecture around the world. To be staged in Denver, March 19, admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.

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