Cable Tech

Broadcom Jump Starts MOCA Strategy

Chip giant Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) has put up $31 million in cash to acquire Octalica, a move that accelerates Broadcom's involvement in the rapidly maturing Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) and places it in competition for market share with MOCA's top silicon supplier, Entropic Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ENTR)

MOCA, which has high profile operator members such as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cox Communications Inc. , and EchoStar Satellite LLC , is an IP-based home networking scheme that pipes video and other applications over coax cabling at speeds up to a theoretical 270 Mbit/s. MOCA has become a key component of multi-room digital video recorder services, with Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), another MOCA member, being one of the early, significant adopters of the technology.

The acquisition of Octalica, set to close in the second quarter of 2007, "will accelerate our [MOCA] efforts significantly," says Dan Marotta, senior vice president and general manager of Broadcom's Broadband Communications Group. (See Broadcom Enters MOCA Market.)

By adding Octalica to the fold, he says, Broadcom can have a team on the MOCA project without pulling staff away from areas such as cable and DSL modems.

Broadcom should be ready to introduce set-tops and other devices with MOCA baked in sometime in 2008, he adds.

Octalica joined MOCA in April 2006, the second silicon maker to join the alliance. Entropic, a MOCA founder, was the first.

Broadcom is also a member, as are other set-top chip players, such as Conexant Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CNXT) and STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE: STM).

Octalica, a fabless semiconductor company with 27 employees, has headquarters in Newton Centre, Mass., and a design team in Tel Aviv. The company was founded in 2005.

MOCA competes in the "connected home" arena with other advanced home networking platforms such as Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HomePNA) version 3, HomePlug Powerline Alliance A/V, and WiFi. Each is vying for carrier attention; AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), for example, says it prefers to use HPNAv3 for its U-verse Internet and video service. (See AT&T: Hold the MoCA.)

Yet another option is Pulse-Link Inc. , which bases its system on Ultra Wideband. It is slated to show off an HDTV home networking system next week in Las Vegas at The Cable Show.

Although Broadcom has puttered around with HPNA and HomePlug, it hasn't applied many resources in those directions lately. MOCA "is the next thing on deck, particularly in North America. We're putting our next investment dollar in that area," Marotta says.

With Verizon as its shining deployment star, MOCA has strengthened its credibility due in part to a membership roster that includes big consumer-electronics names, such as Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Linksys , and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC).

Broadcom enters the MOCA market with some catching up to do. Entropic has shipped more than five million of its c.LINK chipsets, which are used for MOCA-based home networking implementations as well as for high-speed broadband access systems. Jupiter Telecommunications Co. Ltd. (J:COM) of Japan is using the technology to offer symmetrical 100-Mbit/s services to apartment buildings.

Entropic also shored up its competitive positioning in the "connected home entertainment" field early last month in announcing a deal to acquire RF Magic Inc. , a company that specializes in tuners for satellite, cable and terrestrial TV, channel stacking switches, and WiMax silicon. (See Presto! Entropic to Merge With RF Magic.)

Octalica has not disclosed any MOCA-related product figures, but having Broadcom on board should hasten product integration and development.

Marotta downplayed the notion that Broadcom will be locking horns with Entropic, saying his company plans to integrate Octalica into other products, rather than sell standalone chipsets and transceivers.

"We don't necessarily see ourselves competing with them," Marotta says of Entropic.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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