TI Chips In for Faster Cable Modems

Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) is the first chipmaker to confirm that it will be powering a number of next-gen cable modems. These devices are expected to show up for the first official CableLabs Certification Wave to test against Docsis 3.0, a new set of specs that support IPv6 addressing and use channel bonding techniques to produce shared Internet speeds in excess of 100 Mbit/s. (See CableLabs Preps for Docsis 3.0 Tests and TI Enters Docsis 3.0 Wave.)

Modems and cable modem termination systems (CMTSs) tagged for Wave 56 are due into Louisville, Colo.-based CableLabs by Wednesday, October 3, according to the cable R&D house's latest testing schedule.

"The party starts this week," says Peter Percosan, TI's director of broadband strategy.

Percosan notes that three major cable modem "brands" are slated for testing in the upcoming wave, but could not be more specific. Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) are two of TI's largest cable modem customers. Of that group, Motorola has confirmed it will submit its SB6120 model. Scientific Atlanta is believed to be the third vendor that will submit a cable modem based on TI silicon. According to a recent Heavy Reading report, Motorola and SA shipped the most Docsis cable modems in the first half of 2007. Arris was fifth on the list, behind Ambit Broadband and Thomson S.A. (NYSE: TMS; Euronext Paris: 18453). (See Modem Shipments Eclipse Old Record.)

TI's modem partners are using the Puma 5, a Docsis 3.0-based chipset the company introduced in May at The Cable Show in Las Vegas. The company has not disclosed pricing on its 3.0 silicon. (See TI Chips In.)

Currently, TI's Puma5 platform can bond four upstream and four downstream channels. In addition to being the baseline for the Docsis 3.0 specs, it's also the "appropriate configuration" for most MSOs, based on operator feedback, Percosan says. TI is also working on a version that bonds up to eight downstream channels. Operators could use that configuration for higher-density business services.

Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) and Conexant Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CNXT) also have developed silicon for Docsis 3.0 modems, but neither company had disclosed its plans, or the plans of its modem partners, for Wave 56 by deadline for this story.

CableLabs has yet to say how many modems and CMTSs are expected to come in for testing. Results from Wave 56 should be known by mid-December.

Initially, CableLabs is expected to test only for the data component of the modems in Wave 56, though some products that come in might be upgradeable to support PacketCable voice as an embedded multimedia terminal adapter (E-MTA).

Percosan says TI's strategy is to stabilize its Docsis 3.0 silicon for data, but it could shift into E-MTA mode by mid-2008.

On the CMTS front for Wave 56, two vendors -- Motorola and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) -- have said they will go for "Bronze" qualification, the bottom rung of a tiered testing program introduced in April that aims to accelerate Docsis 3.0 development and eventual MSO adoption. According to engineers familiar with the program, the Bronze tier will include downstream channel bonding and IPv6. The Silver tier will add in upstream channel bonding. Full qualification will include all elements of the Docsis 3.0 specs. (See CableLabs Accelerates Docsis 3.0 Testing .)

Casa Systems Inc., a startup based in Andover, Mass., is said to be one of the CMTS vendors considering submitting product for full qualification this week. Casa, however, has not confirmed its plans for the upcoming Wave.

Although most of the announced trials and deployments involving 3.0-based services have occured outside the U.S., Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is expected to begin some tests this year. (See Comcast Preps Docsis 3.0 Trials.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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