Cable modem's 'father' sees his invention reach adulthood

Rouzbeh Yassini-Fard, considered by many as the 'father of the cable modem,' was recently inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame. He joins the podcast to discuss the past, present and future of broadband.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

April 24, 2024

At a Glance

  • Yassini's 'Eureka' moments that led to the rise of the cable modem and later the industry's push towards DOCSIS (04:40)
  • The biggest challenges Yassini and his company faced in the early days (06:30)
  • Is DOCSIS 4.0 the last chapter for broadband over HFC? (21:35)

Having long surpassed cable pay-TV, broadband is now the cornerstone of the cable business from both a revenue and subscriber perspective.

Cable operators are now struggling to grow their respective broadband businesses in the midst of rising competition, a sluggish housing move market and general service saturation. But the DOCSIS technology that underpins broadband services delivered via the hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks continues to evolve and improve as suppliers and operators pursue DOCSIS 4.0, a CableLabs specification that is driving symmetrical multi-gigabit services, enhanced security and network reliability, and lower latencies.

Dr. Rouzbeh Yassini-Fard, considered the "father of the cable modem," founded LANcity, a pioneer in cable modem technology that was sold to Bay Networks in 1996 for $56 million. That work served as the foundation of cable broadband and DOCSIS, a set of interoperability specs from CableLabs that enabled vendor competition, drove down costs (LANcity's original cable modem weighed 120 pounds and cost about $18,000 to make), and put cable operators in position to expand and scale what would later become a multi-billion-dollar broadband business.  

Yassini, who later took a big role at CableLabs to help lead the organization's DOCSIS certification testing project, has seen cable broadband grow from its infancy 30-plus years ago, to its teens with the advent of DOCSIS 1.1 and 2.0, and into its adulthood with DOCSIS 3.0, 3.1 and 4.0.

Rouzbeh Yassini at Cable Hall of Fame 2024

The industry recently recognized Yassini's critical role in helping to spark cable's move into broadband by inducting him into the 2024 class of the Cable of Hall Fame.

'No more coax'

The day after his induction last week in New York, Yassini joined the Light Reading Podcast to reflect on the advent of the cable modem and to discuss his visions for how broadband is taking shape around the globe.

As for the future, Yassini, who heads up the YAS Foundation, says there's the potential for DOCSIS to live on beyond DOCSIS 4.0 and support frequencies above 1.8GHz. But he recognizes that the role of DOCSIS will eventually be completed as operators push fiber even deeper and eventually eliminate coax in the network.

"It's my vision that by 2035, 2040 Internet and high-speed data arrive to the consumer home either through the fiber or wireless. If those are the two [access technologies], then the evolution of the DOCSIS has been accomplished," he says. "There will be a time we will celebrate the evolution of the final DOCSIS, when there's no more coax left between the pole and the last 100 feet to the home."

Here's a snapshot of our discussion (click the closed captioning button in the player for a lightly edited transcript):

  • What an induction into the Cable Hall of Fame means to Yassini (1:05)

  • Did Yassini ever imagine that broadband would become as core to the cable business as it is today? (02:35)

  • Yassini's 'Eureka' moments that led to the rise of the cable modem and later the industry's push towards DOCSIS (04:40)

  • The biggest challenges Yassini and his company faced in the early days (06:30)

  • Faced with naysayers about the costs and complexities of new cable modem technologies, Yassini enlisted the help of CTO champions to turn his dream into reality (11:00)

  • Why Yassini sponsored a group of DOCSIS forerunners to be recognized by the Cable TV Pioneers in 2019 (13:20)

  • Yassini outlined his vision in Planet Broadband, a book published in 2003. How close are we to fulfilling that vision? (16:20)

  • Yassini reflects on the evolution of DOCSIS (18:40)

  • Is DOCSIS 4.0 the last chapter for broadband over HFC? (21:35)

  • Yassini's current passions and interests, including advocating for access to broadband everywhere (23:40)

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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