MaxLinear joins Broadcom in DOCSIS 4.0 chip race with 'Puma 8'

MaxLinear's new DOCSIS 4.0 chip ensures there will be multiple sources of silicon for cable's new platform. But unlike Broadcom, MaxLinear says it will not require any 'restrictive' joint development agreements just to gain access to its tech.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

October 17, 2023

4 Min Read
MaxLinear logo on a smartphone screen in front of website
(Source: Timon Schneider/Alamy Stock Photo

In a move that could loosen Broadcom's grip on the emerging DOCSIS 4.0 market and ensure there are multiple sources for the critical technology, MaxLinear has introduced the Puma 8, a D4.0 chipset for cable modems and gateways.

MaxLinear said "several" top original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have developed products based on the company's silicon in preparation for compliance and interoperability trials and mass production deployments slated for next year.

MaxLinear, which timed its announcement with this week's SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Denver, said "early access partners" for the Puma 8 include Askey, CommScope and Hitron. Notably, Hitron this week introduced two DOCSIS 4.0 devices based on MaxLinear's Puma 8 – the CODA6000 (a standalone DOCSIS 4.0 modem) and the CODA6008 (a D4.0 modem with integrated IP voice support).

(Hitron's CODA6008 DOCSIS 4.0 modem bakes in support for IP voice

Of that supplier group, CommScope is in the process of selling Home Networks, its customer premises equipment (CPE) unit, to Vantiva. Vantiva, historically a Broadcom shop, has yet to say whether it intends to go with a dual-source model for DOCSIS silicon after it wraps up the CommScope deal.

UPDATE: Expect Vantiva to maintain CommScope's DOCSIS work involving MaxLinear. "Commscope has development from MaxLinear in DOCSIS. Therefore we would inherit their portfolio and their commitment made to customers," Vantiva said in a statement.

Reaching production in the second half of 2024

MaxLinear expects the Puma 8 to reach production in the second half of 2024, Will Torgerson, VP and GM of MaxLinear's Broadband Business Unit, said. With CableLabs now ready to start certification on DOCSIS 4.0 modems, MaxLinear does intend to submit its own hardware for testing but believes some of its device partners could beat the chipmaker to the punch.

Torgerson said it's too early to discuss what kind of price delta a DOCSIS 4.0 modem will have over today's DOCSIS 3.1 products, even when D4.0 gear starts to get deployed in volume. But Torgerson said the new D4.0 lineup is a bit more complex given the challenge for silicon to drive upstream traffic as high as 684MHz (versus up to 204MHz on today's "high-split" upgrades being used for DOCSIS 3.1).

"It's almost an amplifier/remote PHY class of chip," he said.

No 'restrictive' JDA required

MaxLinear's formal entry into the DOCSIS 4.0 market will ensure that device makers and cable operators can access at least two sources of D4.0 silicon.

MaxLinear, which got into the DOCSIS silicon game via its 2020 acquisition of Intel's home gateway business, stressed that access to the Puma 8 will not require any "restrictive Joint Development Agreement by MSOs." That clearly refers to Broadcom's DOCSIS 4.0 JDAs with operators such as Comcast, Charter Communication, Cox Communications, Rogers Communications and Liberty Global that require certain volume commitments. Those JDAs also help Broadcom cover its upfront D4.0 development costs.

Torgerson said operators that are in the Broadcom DOCSIS 4.0 JDA or outside of it could have access to MaxLinear's new chip.

"It's a come-one, come-all situation," he said. "There's no restrictions on who we're going to work with."

He said MaxLinear is seeing requests for quote (RFQs) and requests for proposal (RFPs) for D4.0, but declined to discuss what kind of operator commitments the company is already seeing for the new chip.

MaxLinear's angle into DOCSIS 4.0 is focused on the frequency division duplex (FDD) option for DOCSIS 4.0. Also referred to as Extended Spectrum DOCSIS (ESD), the option envisions a hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) plant built to 1.8GHz while keeping upstream and downstream traffic running in dedicated spectrum. Full Duplex (FDX), an option currently favored by Comcast, focuses on plant built up to 1.2GHz alongside the use of an FDX band that allows upstream and downstream traffic to occupy the same block of spectrum.

Among other features, MaxLinear said the Puma 8 features a fan-less design that saves cost, space and power, with full utilization in the range of 20 to 25 watts. That's nearly half the consumption of competitor platforms, the company claims.

Torgerson believes that will provide MaxLinear with a key differentiator in the D4.0 marketplace.

He said MaxLinear is keeping the door open on FDX and could jump in once the company feels the timing is right and operator partners show interest in adopting the technology. "We see that as an important step of the evolution for DOCSIS 4.0," he said of FDX.

One possible wrinkle in that whole scenario is the fact that Comcast and MaxLinear are engaged in a complicated lawsuit.

Torgerson acknowledged that MaxLinear initially received plenty of questions about that situation, "but it seems to have settled down a lot" with other operators and original equipment manufacturers.

He declined to comment on whether MaxLinear expects to develop DOCSIS 4.0 silicon for network elements such as nodes and remote PHY devices.

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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