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BigBand Not Abandoning CMTS

Jeff Baumgartner
8/28/2007

BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) is not bugging out of the cable modem termination system (CMTS) business but refocusing those efforts on Docsis 3.0 and an emerging modular architecture that allows cable operators to scale upstream and downstream capacity independently.

Speculation about the future of BigBand's CMTS efforts came into play on August 24 after an industry analyst noted that the company has laid off some employees based at its Boston-area operation. Layoffs at that division, which keys on CMTS, caused ThinkEquity LLC analyst Anton Wahlman to wonder whether BigBand would repurpose its CMTS strategy or "mothball" the product line altogether. (See BigBand Reduces CMTS Staff.)

John Holobinko, vice president and manger of BigBand's Cable IP business unit, acknowledged there was a "slight reduction" in the company's workforce in Westborough, Mass., but added that roughly the same number of people have been hired to support BigBand's operation in Shenzhen, China, which opened in late March 2007. BigBand expects to hire "significantly more" people for its Shenzhen operation by year's end, according to Holobinko. [Ed. note: How much lead in a CMTS?]

BigBand's Cable IP division focuses on CMTSs and the FastFlow provisioning system -- the two elements the company bought from ADC (Nasdaq: ADCT) in 2004.

Holobinko said the Westborough portion of the Cable IP division will focus on new engineering developments and products, while the employees based in Shenzhen will handle "sustaining engineering" -- bug fixes and minor software enhancements.

He declined to say how many employees in Westborough were laid off. Sources familiar with the situation say as many as 15 people were let go.

What's more certain is that BigBand will train its CMTS focus on Docsis 3.0 and the modular cable modem termination system (M-CMTS), which, among other things, breaks out functions like downstream and upstream capacity and Docsis packet processing. CableLabs , with help from vendors such as Symmetricom Inc. (Nasdaq: SYMM), has also developed a Docsis Timing Interface (DTI) to keep all of those components synched. (See M-CMTS Is All in the Timing.)

BigBand's M-CMTS approach teams the vendor's Cuda 12000 CMTS with its edge QAM. The Cuda chassis takes care of the upstream, with the edge QAM handling the downstream flow.

The integrated CMTS, which packs those functions together in one chassis and marks cable's legacy CMTS architecture, "is a dinosaur," Holobinko says.

Complementing some M-CMTS deployments overseas, BigBand is presently trialing the new implementation with yet-to-be-named MSOs in North America. Cox Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) are among BigBand's CMTS customers in that region.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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