BigBand Trumpets M-CMTS Trials
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading
BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) said this week that two European MSOs, the Netherlands' Multikabel and Austria's LiWest Kabelmedien, will test its new modular CMTS (M-CMTS) platform over the next few months. The two trials will follow lab tests of the M-CMTS platform and downstream channel bonding, which started in early September.
Plans call for BigBand to run similar M-CMTS field trials with up to six other unnamed cable operators around the world this winter, including at least two MSOs in North America and two or three in Asia. Like Multikabel and LiWest, these six cable providers are already conducting lab tests of the vendor's new M-CMTS design.
BigBand also intends to boost the number of total M-CMTS trials early next year. Officials declined to say how many more trials there might be.
Pending trial results, BigBand will launch its new M-CMTS product commercially by the end of March. That could put the vendor several months ahead of such key industry rivals as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), and Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), which are all scrambling to develop their own versions of M-CMTS equipment to help cable operators boost their broadband bandwidth and speeds even before other DOCSIS 3.0 gear becomes available.
"We believe we have a substantial market lead in this area," says Roger Slyk, director of product marketing for BigBand. "We believe nobody else will be able to do this in Q1 and some period thereafter."
Unlike traditional CMTS platforms that integrate all functions on one chassis, the new M-CMTS envisioned by the equally new DOCSIS 3.0 specification splits capabilities between multiple pieces of equipment. The idea is to decouple DOCSIS packet processing from the conventional CMTS, as well as upstream and downstream bandwidth from each other, so that cable operators can ramp up services better by mixing and matching QAM resources for high-speed data and video services.
BigBand purports to accomplish this feat by teaming up its Cuda 12000 CMTS with its BEQ6000 universal edge QAM. The Cuda 12000 takes care of the upstream path while the BEQ6000 handles the downstream packet flow.
Company executives say the beauty of their approach is it requires minimal hardware changes. Unlike their competitors, they say, cable operators only need to add new, multi-port, Gigabit Ethernet modules to their current Cuda CMTS equipment to realize the capacity increases.
That equipment reuse will save cable operators some money -- cutting CMTS downstream costs by as much as 75 percent, company officials say.
As part of a previously announced venture, BigBand has been testing its M-CMTS platform with new wideband, channel-bonding modems from Netgear Inc. (Nasdaq: NTGR). But they're also working with other, undisclosed modem manufacturers as well.
The move comes about three months after Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs) met with equipment manufacturers in New York to stress the importance of developing DOCSIS 3.0 gear swiftly. At the meeting, participants say, top MSO technology executives emphasized the need for the new channel-bonding equipment to stave off competition from upgrading phone companies.
"Overall they made a strong statement that DOCSIS 3.0 is critically important to their business and they want us to go as fast as possible," Slyk says. "We got that message loud and clear."
— Alan Breznick, Site Editor, Cable Digital News