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The Ultimate Cable Modem

Jeff Baumgartner
10/27/2009
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5:40 PM -- DENVER -- CTAM Summit -- The CableLabs Docsis 3.0 specs call for a modem to be capable of bonding, at a minimum, four upstream channels and four downstream channels. There's not much actual upstream channel bonding occurring in the wild yet, but that 4x4 configuration ensures that MSOs can offer burst speeds of more than 100 Mbit/s in both directions.

Not lame. But not where things are heading.

These days, vendors are working on modem configurations that bond eight or 16 downstream channels, while maintaining a four-channel upstream, Carey Ritchey, general manager of Microtune Inc. (Nasdaq: TUNE)'s cable unit, mentioned to me yesterday. At full burst, a 16-channel downstream (using 6MHz-wide channels) would generate something like 640 Mbit/s.

Definitely not lame. But also not where some see this all going... at least among the mad scientists out there.

Ritchey said he's already seen some requests for Docsis modems that can bond 32 downstream channels. My cable math suggests that would put a burst speed in the neighborhood of 1.2 Gbit/s.

"But that's been the extreme," Ritchey says. It's the type of extreme Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) openly conceptualized in January 2008 at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Conference on Emerging Technologies with a presentation titled "A proposal for Docsis 4.0."

Seems as though that vision has since taken a few steps closer to reality.

Of course, the question is what sort of extreme would require such a massively wide speed pipe. If I had to guess, it would have to be for something along the lines of a QAM-IP gateway that can do everything today's digital set-tops can now, but also help MSOs pursue a unicast video model in a big way. Someday.

Or maybe it's about something completely different. But what? I'll do more asking around here. Got an idea? Please share it on the message board.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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rjmcmahon
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rjmcmahon,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:53:09 PM
re: The Ultimate Cable Modem


Another thing that seems relevant in this discussion is that consumer markets played a significant role in enabling MODEM churn.&nbsp; These pieces of equipment were an end user purchase.&nbsp; Also, MODEM banks were purchased by "startup" ISPs (that could only exist due to common carriage regulation.)&nbsp; When all this equipment is owned by the "network provider" the business will have to justify the purchases based on a ROI analysis (or maybe some hopes for Wall St. hype).&nbsp; Consumers and early ISPs really never did this analysis and hence these markets were conducive to technology churn which enabled these technologies to evolve.&nbsp; PC technology had a similar boot strap.


Note:&nbsp; I did buy my cable MODEM but I think that's rare.&nbsp; It wasn't something the cable co advertised and supported well (nor was my user purchased TIVO and cable card.)


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rjmcmahon
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rjmcmahon,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:53:08 PM
re: The Ultimate Cable Modem


Seven,


I was buying MODEMs for my friends and family when setting up PCs from about 1986 or so.&nbsp; Most people were playing around with bulletin boards, prodigy and compuserve.&nbsp; Also, businesses buying the MODEM fits into the churn model, ie. customer owned equipment where the rationalization for purchase isn't really an ROI from leasing the equipment.&nbsp; That, in my opinion, is the big lesson for technology policy - bulid a market system where the technology either is consumer purchzsed or rationalized by "productivity" (a la the PC.)&nbsp; If the network providers own the equipment (like is done for set top boxes) there really is a big drag prohibiting upgrades and innovations.&nbsp; Think of it kinda like the ownership sociecty (cars, houses) applied to communications infrastructure.&nbsp; With that ownership comes a lot of potential.&nbsp; Without it were doomed to the least common denominator with things like FiOS - a repackaged video network where none is needed pushed by the&nbsp; FCC, unneeded because these broadcast networks are already built and work fine.&nbsp; Talk about a waste of money.

rjmcmahon
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rjmcmahon,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:53:06 PM
re: The Ultimate Cable Modem


Seven,


Most people of the 6.6B on the planet don't own a computer today in 2009.


Another example:&nbsp; Look at PV Solar panels in CA.&nbsp; If these could be justified by only simple ROI economics they would be installed on everyone's homes and paid for by PG&amp;E.&nbsp; Now the market is in its nascent phase so both the CA and Federal government have stepped up with both regulatory support as well direct economic subsidies.&nbsp; In my opinion, fiber OSPs deserve the same considerations and arguably have a better overall net value to society.&nbsp; Sadly, subsidizing FiOS and VZ is like pouring more money into GM.&nbsp; We need to raise the bar a bit.


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paolo.franzoi
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paolo.franzoi,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 3:53:06 PM
re: The Ultimate Cable Modem


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rj,


Actually most people did not even OWN a computer in 1986.&nbsp; So, again you need to rethink that bit of it.&nbsp; Where you get these whacky notions is beyond me.


Businesses do ROI analysis of their networks - especially large operations that run extensive enterprise networks.&nbsp; Also, back in the days many enterprises DID do leasing models of equipment to manage their network costs and convert large upgrade cost cycles to payment over time.&nbsp;


So, what your saying - as I think I read it correctly is that the only way that anything ever works is an open and free market.&nbsp; Government intervention is a really bad idea.&nbsp; I agree with that wholeheartedly, surprised you have come around to that view.


And the innovations on the business side came from cost reductions and operational simplfication of modems.&nbsp; Most business modems were equalized leased line modems plugged into IBM mainframes.&nbsp; In the old days (late 60s) these modems were hand equalized.&nbsp; Later (70s) they became auto-equalized from hardware strapping.&nbsp; In the 80s, they became processor based.&nbsp; So, yes in the 1960s you could buy a 9600 bps leased line modem that did the same job as the 9600 bps modem that you bough in the 1980s.&nbsp; The prices had declined and the capability had increased through vendor competition.


seven

rjmcmahon
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rjmcmahon,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:53:05 PM
re: The Ultimate Cable Modem


The point is that Fiber OSP builders being treated like PV Solar businesses would likely be&nbsp; a good thing.&nbsp; In the CA PV model the incumbent and regulated monopoly (PG&amp;E) is forced to effectively subsidize *new* entrants.&nbsp; State legislation requires PG&amp;E to implement net metering (reimbursing at retail price sto PV system owners.)&nbsp; On top of that both the Federal and State governments provide direct economic subsidies via rebates and tax writeoffs.&nbsp; This is all done to stimulate PV investment.


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paolo.franzoi
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paolo.franzoi,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 3:53:05 PM
re: The Ultimate Cable Modem


rj,


Nobody is subsidizing Verizon or AT&amp;T.&nbsp; About the only relief they get is the fact they will not have to unbundle their fiber plant, but they receive no funds from the government to roll out FiOS or U-verse.&nbsp; By the way, the rollout of U-verse should require unbundling in most cases because it does not meet the FTTC limits so they don't even qualify for that.


seven


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