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Moto Calls Up Wideband CPEs

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) fleshed out its home-side Docsis 3.0 portfolio Thursday with the introduction of a stand-alone Wideband modem and two devices that add in cable VOIP capabilities. (See Moto Talks Docsis 3.0.)

The stand-alone SB6120 SURFboard Cable Modem is not exactly a newcomer to the scene. Last year, Motorola confirmed it had submitted the model to CableLabs for Certification Wave 56, the first official tests against Docsis 3.0.

That wave produced the first set of cable modem termination system (CMTS) qualifications, but no passing grades for 3.0-based cable modems. (See CableLabs Preps for Docsis 3.0 Tests and Cisco, Arris & Casa Make the CableLabs Grade.)

The SB6120 is equipped to bond up to four upstream and four downstream channels. That would produce capped downstream speeds of roughly 160 Mbit/s in Docsis environments, which use 6 MHz-wide channels. Those speeds rise to 195 Mbit/s for Euro-Docsis, which uses wider 8 MHz channels. To conform with the new specs, the modem also sprinkles in support for advanced encryption services and the IPv6 addressing scheme.

Motorola also unveiled two “Digital Voice Modem” products that could factor into cable’s “triple-play” deployment strategies: the SBV6120 and the SBV6220. Both are considered embedded multimedia terminal adapters (E-MTAs), able to handle regular high-speed Internet services, as well as IP-based voice applications. The SBV6120 offers up to two lines of VOIP, while the SBV6220 adds power backup in the form of a Lithium-ion battery.

Motorola isn't giving away much detail about pricing. A stand-alone Docsis 2.0 modem today costs about $35 per unit. Industry sources have indicated that operators would eventually like to see 3.0 modems go for less than $60 each.

Likewise, Moto isn’t divulging where the new CPEs are being trialed or deployed. However, it's being a bit more forthcoming about where the hotspots are.

Already faced with speedy telco competition, cable MSOs in South Korea and Japan appear to be the most poised to make a “fast startup” on Docsis 3.0, with engagements possible as early as this summer, says Alan Lefkof, corporate VP of Motorola’s Broadband Solutions Group.

He expects operators in Northern Europe, particularly in Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany, to follow in the fall, with operators in North America also set to ramp things up around the same time.

Canada's Vidéotron Telecom Ltd. has already launched 30 Mbit/s and a 50 Mbit/s (downstream) tiers using pre-3.0 technologies. Comcast, meanwhile, has already said it will install a Docsis 3.0 architecture in 20 percent of its footprint by year-end. (See Videotron Hits the Gas and Comcast Closes In on 100 Mbit/s.)

In North America and Europe, Lefkof expects operators to deploy and market 3.0 in “rifle-shot” fashion this year where they are witnessing the most intense telco competition, and then open things up more broadly in 2009. Operators in South Korea and Japan will “get into general purpose marketing sooner than everybody else,” he predicts.

Because the new 3.0 gear is backwards-compatible with previous versions of Docsis, Lefkof believes operators could begin to seed the market with the new modems before they turn up faster Wideband tiers.

And Motorola has some turf to protect. According to Heavy Reading, Motorola led the way with 32.4 percent of all Docsis device shipments through the third quarter of 2007. Arris was second, with 25.4 percent of the market, followed by Cisco/Scientific Atlanta. (See Cable Modem Shipments Growing Strong.)

Vital to the portfolio
From a competitive standpoint, having a Docsis 3.0-based E-MTA in the lineup is becoming a necessity even before CableLabs awards any passing grades. Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), still the market leader for Docsis-based E-MTAs, unveiled a two-line model, the Touchstone TM702, last month. (See Calling Docsis 3.0.)

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), meanwhile, has introduced a Docsis 3.0 modem, the DPC3000, but has yet to launch an E-MTA based on the new specs.

Thomson S.A. (NYSE: TMS; Euronext Paris: 18453) entered the Docsis channel bonding market late last year with a pre-Docsis 3.0 product. (See Thomson Markets 100-Mbit/s Modem.) It has yet to launch a 3.0-based E-MTA yet, but it's a player in the broader E-MTA market, as it began shipping its Docsis 2.0 model to Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Motorola officials declined to say whether the company has submitted any of the new Docsis 3.0 products to CableLabs for the current test wave. CableLabs is expected to post those results sometime after April 15.

TI, the early winner
The introduction of Motorola's new product trio marks a big win for Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN), which is supplying the silicon for all three models. TI unleashed its Puma 5 modem chipset last May. (See TI Chips In.)

Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) is expected to play a key role in the market as well, but so far its success has been limited to pre-Docsis 3.0 Wideband modems.

— 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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