Certified: Netgear's Wideband Modem

Netgear Inc. (Nasdaq: NTGR) has become the latest consumer electronics maker to obtain certification for Docsis 3.0, a new set of CableLabs specs designed to push speeds beyond 100 Mbit/s by bonding a minimum of four upstream and downstream channels.

According to Certification Wave 60 results posted by CableLabs, Netgear got the stamp for its CMD31T. Netgear officials were not available for comment Monday afternoon, but the product sheet for the model indicates that the modem supports a "hybrid mode" for cable systems that use 6 MHz- and 8 MHz-wide channels. Several European MSOs use 8 MHz channel spacing.

Among other 3.0-related activities in Wave 60, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) came away with certification for both Docsis 3.0 and PacketCable 1.5 for its DPQ3202 embedded multimedia terminal adapter (E-MTA). It marked the first time Cisco has achieved 3.0 certification for a device that couples support for traditional Internet access and IP voice services.

In addition to Netgear, five other companies have obtained 3.0 certification for standalone cable modems or EMTAs: Cisco, Ambit Broadband , Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), and SMC Networks Inc. So far, only Casa Systems Inc. has won "Full" qualification for its Docsis 3.0 cable modem termination system (CMTS). (See Docsis 3.0 Gear Tracker II.) Results from Certification Wave 61 won't be known until mid/late August.

To date, every Docsis 3.0-certified modem has been based on the Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) Puma 5 chipset. Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), already active in the "pre" Docsis 3.0 modem market, is expected to introduce a chipset based on the full CableLabs specs this year. (See Betting on Broadcom .)

Having Netgear jump into the Docsis 3.0 modem pool could apply some unit price pressure on other vendors. "Another competitor always helps to reduce costs a bit more," says Heavy Reading senior analyst Alan Breznick, noting that some MSOs have complained about the price difference between 3.0 and 2.0 cable modems. In the first quarter of this year, 3.0 modems were costing about $80 per unit. Operators would like to see Wideband units eventually drop below $35.

But Netgear's 3.0 initial deployment strategy -- whether via direct-to-MSO deals or through the retail market -- remains unclear. For now, it's expected that Netgear, which also obtained certification for a Docsis 2.0 model in Wave 60, will attempt to strike cable operator deals.

That's because a retail play will make more sense once wideband is much more widely deployed. Among larger U.S. MSOs, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has launched Docsis 3.0 services in the Twin Cities, and plans to have 20 percent or more of its footprint 3.0-ready by year's end. Cox Communications Inc. has indicated it will start to target some 3.0 deployments in the third quarter, and has identified Northern Virginia as one of its early test sites. (See Comcast Enters the Wideband Era and Cox, Comcast Wax on Wideband .) Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), meanwhile, has said it will try out Docsis 3.0 in New York, where it's grappling with FiOS, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s completely fiber-fed broadband services platform. (See Britt: Docsis 3.0 Coming to NYC.)

Netgear might have a better chance seeding a Docsis 3.0 modem retail strategy in Japan, where that nation's largest cable operator, Jupiter Telecommunications Co. Ltd. (J:COM) , expects to have speedy Wideband-based services available across the board by late July. (See J:COM Does Docsis 3.0 All Over.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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