Cable modem/CMTS

Arris Nabs Japanese MSO for FlexPath

Arris Group has snared one of its first international cable operators for its new "FlexPath" wideband offering. Cable Television Kani Co. announced earlier this week that it will try out the new Arris product in a three-month field trial in Kani-city, Japan, starting Sept. 1.

Using FlexPath, Cable Television Kani plans to test a 120-Mbit/s cable modem service which, if all goes well, could start deploying commercially on Dec. 1. Data subscribers will pay 5,800 yen (US$50) a month for the service, including the cable modem rental fee.

With the cable guys under increasing competitive pressure to boost bandwidth and broadband speeds, FlexPath is one of several proprietary, pre-standard products that tech vendors are bringing to market while CableLabs continues to craft its next-generation DOCSIS 3.0 technical spec. Arris's wideband offering includes a software upgrade to its Cadant C4 cable modem termination system (CMTS) and a new cable modem dubbed the WBM650. Packed with four DOCSIS chips and a GigE switch, the modem will cost cable operators about $200.

The cable industry's two biggest tech vendors, Motorola and Cisco Systems, are also producing pre-standard wideband gear for near-term deployment. Like Arris, each manufacturer now has pre-DOCSIS 3.0 wideband modems and CMTS products in field trials, with plans for general availability by the end of the year.

Arris executives say they're also conducting FlexPath trials with NTL in the U.K., Hanaro in Korea, and other MSOs. But with many cable operators waiting for DOCSIS 3.0 products to appear, Arris officials are not expecting to generate huge FlexPath sales.

'We're talking about tens of thousands, not millions, of [pre-standard wideband] modems,' says Arris President Jim Lakin. 'We will definitely be deployed, but as a competitive response.'

Indeed, until DOCSIS 3.0 is ready for prime time about two years from now, cable operators are likely to deploy wideband only in residential markets where they face intense competitive pressure or want to deliver targeted business services. Right now that mainly means parts of Asia and such hotly contested domestic markets as New York, where Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems are battling Verizon Communications and other, lesser rivals for broadband supremacy.

"I think we'll start to see some actual [FlexPath] revenue in the fourth quarter," Lakin says. "But FlexPath by itself is not the end game. The end game is DOCSIS 3.0."

--Alan Breznick, Site Editor, Cable Digital News
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