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Broadcom Blends GPON With MoCA

The next phase in the battle between Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) and Entropic Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ENTR) is underway. Broadcom, as expected, unveiled a new chip family that combines GPON with the 1.1 version of Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) , and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is viewed as the product's likeliest first adopter. (See Broadcom Unveils GPON Chips.)

Word leaked out last summer that Broadcom had such plans underway, with indications that it had already won a deal to supply the chips to Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) for Verizon's FiOS platform, and apply big time pressure on AlcaLu's incumbent GPON chip supplier, Freescale Semiconductor Inc. , as well as MoCA specialist Entropic. (See Broadcom Breaking Into GPON? and Alcatel, Freescale Partner on GPONs.)

Verizon, cable MSOs, and even some U.S.-based satellite TV players are using MoCA (or plan to soon) to enable multi-room DVRs and other applications that allow customers to shuttle digital media around the home's coax network. (See Cox, Entropic MoCA Deal Not Exclusive .)

Broadcom, which now has MoCA 1.1 certification in the bag for a reference design for set-tops and other types of broadband access products, is still mum on what partners and telcos will be using the new BCM6800 family of GPON chipsets, which integrate a MoCA media access controller, PHY transceiver, and RF tuner. (See Broadcom Stirs Up Trouble for Entropic .)

"We've been working with multiple partners for quite some time; this is a very mature chip," says Stephen Palm, technical director of Broadcom's broadband communications group. He would only go as far as to say that a typical application for the chip would target "a customer like Verizon." [Ed note: Or maybe a customer that is Verizon.]

The integrated chipset intends to reduce power, costs, and the overall bill of materials for GPON gateways, but Broadcom isn't willing to reveal any pricing. Although Verizon is viewed as the most likely candidate for the new chip, Palm says the product can be applied to a variety of telcos, with or without the MoCA option. "Gone are the days where we can make a chip for just one customer," he says.

Still, Verizon is expected to use the new integrated chip. In its present, less-integrated architecture, two Entropic MoCA chips power the in-home broadband router, and another MoCA node resides in the optical network terminal (ONT).

Entropic's take: Wrong product, wrong time
Entropic is also working in the GPON sector with partners like BroadLight Inc. and Freescale, but is focusing the bulk of its future attention on developing silicon that uses MoCA 2.0, a version that's expected to bump home networking speeds to the 400-Mbit/s range, and obtain ratification sometime this year. By comparison, 1.1 provides a PHY rate of 270 Mbit/s, and net throughput of about 175 Mbit/s. (See MoCA 2.0 and Verizon: MoCA Needs Some Speed.)

Predictably, Entropic thinks Broadcom's GPON/MoCA 1.1 play is the wrong product at the wrong time, and believes the demand for such a product will be somewhat limited.

"It's not the right time for integration," claims Al Servati, Entropic's director of marketing for home networking. "What's the significance of doing an integrated chip with 1.1?"

Entropic instead is developing MoCA 2.0-based reference designs that incorporate its partners' GPON technology. Entropic intends to offer up pre-2.0 products that are compatible with 1.1 and software-upgradable to 2.0 by sometime next year.

"We don't want to do integration at the first phase of the technology rollout," Servati adds, noting he expects most operators to be requesting MoCA 2.0. Once the new version settles in, "that's where you really start discussing integration."

Broadcom, meanwhile, contends that its 1.1 strategy is sound and that it will be ready for 2.0 when the market demands it.

“With any evolving standard, there are always claims regarding who has the fastest and most advanced technology that may be compatible with a future standard," Palm noted. "Specification work beyond MoCA 1.1 is in process to be followed by developing a certification program. Broadcom continues to closely monitor the market for any needs beyond the industry demand for MoCA 1.1”

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News


Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to TelcoTV 2009, the telecom industry’s premier event for the exploration of a comprehensive entertainment convergence strategy, to be staged in Orlando, Fla., November 10-12. For more information, or to register, click here.


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