TI Chips In

LAS VEGAS -- Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) applied some pressure on its silicon rivals Monday with the unveiling of the Puma 5, a cable modem chipset based on Docsis 3.0, a maturing CableLabs spec that uses channel bonding techniques to produce Internet speeds north of 100 Mbit/s.

At least three cable modem "brands" are expected to submit product based on TI's new silicon for CableLabs' Certification Wave 56, according to Peter Percosan, the chipmaker's director of broadband strategy.

That Wave, to get underway in October, is expected to be the first to conduct official tests on modems and cable modem termination systems (CMTSs) against the advanced 3.0 specs. Although cable modems will be required to comply with the full set of specs, CMTS vendors will have the option to test their products in a tiered fashion -- Bronze, Silver, or Full. (See CableLabs Accelerates Docsis 3.0 Testing .)

Percosan declined to say which modem brands would enter the Wave 56 outfitted with Puma 5 silicon, but TI's current Docsis 2.0 modem partners include Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT).

Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), TI's primary competitor in this area, also supplies modem chips to Motorola, as well as to Scientific Atlanta and Thomson S.A. (NYSE: TMS; Euronext Paris: 18453).

Broadcom and Conexant have also developed pre-Docsis 3.0 chips for advanced set-tops that can bond up to three 6MHz channels. TI thus far has trained its focus on modems based on the full Docsis 3.0 platform. (See Conexant Bonds With Set-Tops .)

Percosan hopes cable operators will begin to deploy only 3.0 modems by the end of 2008, and begin to populate systems with the devices even before they begin to install 3.0-capable CMTSs. But to meet that goal, he acknowledges, "product has to come out jelly-side-up after [Certification Wave] 56."

He also forecasts that 2008 will be the year for stand-alone 3.0 modems, while 2009 ushers in deployments of new Docsis 3.0 embedded multimedia terminal adapters (eMTAs) capable of supporting both cable-fed voice and data services.

TI has not disclosed pricing on the Puma 5. A typical Docsis 2.0 modem costs in the range of $32 to $35 per unit, while eMTA pricing varies. It's understood that cable operators will be more than pleased if a 3.0 modem costs less than $60 per unit.

In keeping with the 3.0 specs, the DSP-based Puma 5 will support the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), IPv6, and a minimum configuration of four bonded upstream and downstream channels -- likely to be the "optimum configuration" for the next three-to-five years, according to Percosan.

Two Puma 5s can be combined in the same modem, however, if there is need for a new breed of gear for Docsis 3.0-based business services.

TI expects the Puma 5 to reach full production by the second quarter of 2008.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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