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DOCSIS

Cisco, Arris & Casa Make the CableLabs Grade

CableLabs has awarded Docsis 3.0 qualification to three cable modem termination system (CMTS) vendors -- Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), Casa Systems Inc. , and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) -- following the conclusion of Certification Wave 56, the first to conduct official tests on a spec that promises shared speeds in excess of 100 Mbit/s. (See CableLabs Stamps CMTSs .)

While CMTS 3.0 approvals mark a significant milestone in the history of cable's Docsis effort, CableLabs officials confirmed Wednesday morning that it did not award 3.0 certifications to any modems submitted in the recently concluded test wave.

CableLabs has not disclosed any of the participants in Wave 56, but, according to data culled by Cable Digital News, at least three cable modem makers -- Arris, Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), and Scientific Atlanta , the Cisco subsidiary -- submitted modems for 3.0 testing. Those models were based on chipsets from Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN), which has taken a lead role in developing modem-side silicon for the full Docsis 3.0 platform. (See TI Chips In and TI Enters Docsis 3.0 Wave.)

CableLabs president and CEO Dr. Richard Green said in a prepared statement that the R&D house was "very encouraged by the progress made toward certification of cable modems, particularly with the performance of the hardware."

"We are anticipating much greater success in the subsequent wave," CableLabs chief technology officer Ralph Brown tells Cable Digital News. He adds that CableLabs also expects to soon see embedded multimedia terminal adapters (eMTAs) based on Docsis 3.0. In addition to traditional Internet services, those devices also support IP telephony applications.

Cable modem vendors will soon get another opportunity to break the 3.0 barrier. According to the CableLabs 2008 certification schedule, Wave 57 gets underway in early January, with results expected on or around March 11, 2008.

All three CMTSs believed to be in Wave 56 for Docsis 3.0 testing made it through with passing grades, based on a tiered qualification testing system CableLabs introduced in April that aims to speed up the 3.0 program. (See CableLabs Accelerates Docsis 3.0 Testing and Go for the Bronze! .)

While "Full" qualification covers the Docsis 3.0 gamut, "Bronze" is said to include support for downstream channel bonding and the IPv6 addressing scheme. "Silver" adds upstream channel bonding and the Advanced Encryption System (AES) to the mix. CableLabs is expected to phase out the tiered system in early 2009.

Casa Systems, a startup based in Andover, Mass. (see the Light Reading profile), submitted its C2200 CMTS for Full qualification, but came away with Silver. CableLabs awarded Bronze qualification to the Arris C4 and the Cisco uBR 10012 -- considered the CMTS flagships for those vendors.

Based on a minimum configuration that calls for the bonding of four channels in both directions, Docsis 3.0 is designed to produced shared speeds of at least 160 Mbit/s downstream and 120 Mbit/s upstream. The Linksys unit of Cisco, by way of example, has talked up the WCM300, a model that bonds up to eight downstream channels –- enough to push about 240 Mbit/s.

Although Wave 56 concluded without any modems making the grade, that may not have much of an affect on cable operator deployments next year, expected to target markets affected by Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s FiOS platform and other services delivered via fiber-to-the-home systems. Those early 3.0 tests and deployments will likely enlist only downstream channel bonding. Some MSOs outside the U.S., including StarHub of Singapore and Jupiter Telecommunications Co. Ltd. (J:COM) of Japan, are already using pre-Docsis 3.0 systems or some proprietary technologies to dilate the downstream. (See StarHub Offers 100-Mbit/s and Japanese MSO Moves 160 Mbit/s.)

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), the nation's largest MSO, has already placed some orders for Docsis 3.0 equipment. Last month, Comcast CTO Tony Werner said the operator plans to have Docsis infrastructure in place in 20 percent of its footprint by the end of 2008. The operator has yet to disclose markets, but possible targets include Reston, Va., and parts of Massachusetts where the MSO is crossing swords with FiOS. (See Comcast Closes In on 100 Mbit/s.)

The "rapid certification effort will enable companies to begin to develop products that will support the rapid deployment of Docsis 3.0 services in 2008," Comcast chairman and CEO and CableLabs chairman Brian Roberts said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Mediacom Communications Corp. , a mid-sized MSO that tangles primarily with Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q), has said it will likely take a "back seat" on Docsis 3.0 while larger operators vet the technology. (See Mediacom Takes 'Back Seat' on Docsis 3.0 .)

Wave 56 marks the second time in which CableLabs approved products for a new spec the first time through. The last time that happened was in late 2002, when CableLabs polished off Cert Wave 24, the first to test against Docsis 2.0. (See No Docsis 3.0 Breakthroughs… Yet.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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