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Moto Downloads Docsis Plans

Jeff Baumgartner
3/30/2009

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) has refreshed its Docsis product roadmap with a new software release that shores up the reliability of its downstream-heavy cable modem termination system (CMTS) module, and a new line of gateways that bring WiFi into the mix.

On the CMTS front, Moto has released the 5.2 software version for the BSR 64000, a flagship CMTS that has already achieved Docsis 3.0 Bronze qualification from CableLabs , meaning it can support features such as IPv6 and downstream channel bonding. The new release applies redundancy to the TX32, a recently introduced CMTS blade that contains 32 dedicated downstream ports. The older, standard card supports two downstream ports and eight upstreams.

Gettin' Down With the Downstream

Prior to the new software, only the more limited 2x8 card could serve as a backup to the downstream-laden TX32. The new design allows for the CMTS to support as many as two active TX32 cards, with a third TX32 serving as the backup.

So why is this important? Floyd Wagoner, director of global product marketing and marketing communications for Motorola's access networks solutions unit, says operators that employ the TX32 for its downstream benefits also want redundancy assurance for residential VoIP services and for new Docsis-fueled business services.

Motorola expects to make the software commercially available by June, but the company has already shipped about 1,000 TX32 modules around the globe. The TX32 isn't in use very broadly in North America yet, but Canada's Shaw Communications Inc. has adopted it for its recently launched 100 Mbit/s wideband service. (See Shaw Picks Moto for Wideband and Shaw Breaks 100-Meg Barrier.)

Jupiter Telecommunications Co. Ltd. (J:COM) is using an earlier version that limits spectrum at 870 MHz. All new TX32s are standardizing on a higher 1 GHz ceiling. (See J:COM Does Docsis 3.0 All Over and Cox Makes 1 GHz Moves .)

Upstream update
For now, Motorola still has no specific plans to shoot for Silver or Full Docsis 3.0 qualification, which brings upstream channel bonding into the mix. That's partly because the vendor doesn't believe most MSOs will be ready for that for another 12 to 14 months. The only public exception so far is Japan CableNet Ltd, which is trying out upstream channel bonding using Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS)'s C4 CMTS. (See Japan Cablenet Swims Upstream .)

"We do not feel that is a business-impacting hurdle," Wagoner says of Motorola's present emphasis on downstream channel bonding. "But the upstream is becoming increasingly important. We'll be ready as the market needs that upstream capacity."

Indeed, Moto has something cooking on that front. It's working on a new blade that packs in 48 dedicated upstream ports, up from the company's initial plan for 32 upstream ports. (See Moto Wields Upstream CMTS Blade.) Although the blade will be made to support Docsis 3.0 upstream channel bonding, its backwards-compatibility with Docsis 2.0 will also give the blade access to S-CDMA, a protocol that provides more throughput by cleaning up cable's relatively noisy upstream.

Moto doesn't expect to formally introduce that product, called the RX48, until sometime next year.

High on WiFi
Motorola is also launching four new "SURFboard" Docsis 2.0-based modem gateways that build in WiFi and other home networking components. Although interest in the gateway concept petered out a few years ago, it has gained renewed importance over the last six months as MSOs seek out ways "to wrap their brand around the WiFi home," says Moto senior director of marketing Tom Dunleavy. "They are looking at opportunities to increase the stickiness of the service." (See Why WiFi Is a Winner .)

Moto is attacking this trend with the SBG901, a stand-alone modem gateway with 802.11 b/g and firewall support. The SBG941 adds in a four-port switch. SVG1501 is an embedded multimedia terminal adapter (EMTA) with support for two lines of VoIP. The SVG2501, another EMTA, incorporates a "field-replaceable" Lithium-ion battery backup. All four products are shipping with Moto's WiFi CD-based installation "Wizard."

Motorola also has a line of Docsis 3.0-based gateway products in development.

Tied in to all this is Motorola's launch of the NBBS, a software module that gives MSOs a way to manage set-tops, Docsis modems, and integrated WiMax and WiFi devices remotely and (hopefully) reduce customer trouble calls. The technology, which came by way of Motorola's acquisition of Netopia, originally was limited to the management of DSL modems. The new "unified" version can support multiple wired and wireless platforms, Dunleavy says. (See Motorola Gobbles Up Netopia.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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