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BigBand Goes Dutch With M-CMTS

Alan Breznick
3/27/2007

BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) has shipped its modular cable modem termination system (M-CMTS) to a major Dutch cable operator, giving that MSO the ability to boost its downstream broadband speeds as high as 100 Mbit/s for cable modem subscribers.

Less than two weeks after its $91 million IPO, BigBand says it has supplied its new M-CMTS device and related Cuda 7.0 software to N.V. Multikabel , one of the largest MSOs in the Netherlands. Multikabel, which has about 315,000 cable subscribers, has reportedly deployed thousands of new wideband cable modems that can handle the higher speeds. (See BigBand IPO: Boing!)

The new M-CMTS supports the downstream channel-bonding features of Docsis 3.0, the latest broadband service spec from Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs) . This means that it enables cable operators to bond several 6MHz channels together, hiking downstream data speeds well above the existing 30-Mbit/s and 40-Mbit/s limits of today's cable modem service.

BigBand executives claim that this is the first MSO deployment in the world of an M-CMTS based on the industry's open Docsis 3.0 spec.

"We're now going from field trials to installations," says Roger Slyk, director of product marketing for BigBand. "We have many more. We're involved with a number of other early access partners."

BigBand officials acknowledge that they're conducting at least one such trial with Liwest Kabelmedien GmbH in Austria. They decline, though, to specify where else in Europe, Asia, and North America they are testing their new M-CMTS in the field. The company is staging the tests with both Netgear Inc. (Nasdaq: NTGR) modems and other modems using Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM)'s new chipset for Docsis 3.0 channel bonding.

Rival equipment suppliers Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) are also working on new M-CMTS devices or upgraded integrated CMTSs to support channel bonding. But they haven't announced any actual M-CMTS deployments, and at least some of these "pre-Docsis 3.0" products are based on proprietary standards, seemingly giving BigBand an early edge.

Besides supporting the new Docsis 3.0 spec, the BigBand M-CMTS also supports earlier Docsis specs. The company says the new M-CMTS supports Docsis 2.0 modems, enabling it to offer downstream data speeds as high as 30 Mbit/s.

BigBand officials claim the new M-CMTS can offer the benefits of channel-bonding far more cheaply than today's integrated CMTS devices, cutting the cost of downstream channels by as much as 75 percent. For instance, they say, a Cuda-supported M-CMTS with 80 downstream channels needs just two extra edge QAM devices to process the faster data signals. In contrast, an integrated CMTS would need four full equipment chassis to carry the same traffic load.

Although the new BigBand M-CMTS supports Docsis 3.0 downstream channel-bonding, it does not support upstream channel-bonding yet. Although CableLabs completed that part of the spec last August, silicon vendors are still developing the capability for upstream bonding.

— Alan Breznick, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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