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DOCSIS

TVCabo Seeks Docsis Independence

ZON TVCabo believes a new suite of "open" broadband software from Jungo Ltd. will enable the Portuguese MSO to exert more negotiation power over its cable modem suppliers and finally break free of the product roadmaps typically controlled by major U.S. cable operators.

ZON Multimédia , plans to integrate a new class of Docsis 3.0 modem gateways with Jungo's OpenRG and OpenSMB middleware. Normally, the middleware component is supplied by the cable modem maker, but this model enables the MSO to separate the software from the base hardware and transfer it to equipment made by other Docsis vendors. (See ZON Opens Wideband Gateway .)

"Our software is totally agnostic to the hardware," says Eran Rom, CEO of Jungo, a software firm acquired by NDS Ltd. in 2006. (See NDS Extends to Gateway With Jungo Buy and NDS Acquires Jungo .)

Nuno Sanches, ZON TVCabo's Internet products director, says adding Jungo to the mix and separating the middleware piece from the core hardware will enable the MSO to more easily source products from new modem vendors and move away from the "catalogue shopping" approach that requires operators to buy a finalized product that includes the boards, the chipsets, and the software.

"We could do some customization, but the effort would not be something we could leverage on our next CPE [consumer premises equipment]," Sanches explains.

Under the new model, ZON TVCabo will be able to drive harder bargains. "We can renegotiate every six months to a year the main costs [of the CPE] while the service layer remains constant," says Sanches.

As an added benefit, he notes, the transferable middleware layer will also help the Portuguese operator become independent of the product roadmaps dictated by the needs of the major U.S. cable MSOs, and enable TVCabo to develop products more relevant for its markets.

The move will also enable TVCabo to keep pace with the demands of increasing WiFi adoption -- it promotes the Fon WiFi sharing service -- and gain the ability to manage WiFi devices remotely should problems arise.

"Essentially, users want wireless. That's a starting point for everything," Sanches says. "Integrating the router and remotely managing it has become one of our key concerns."

ZON plans to offer a wide range of applications on its Docsis gateways, but the first one will center on customer care and home networking troubleshooting.

ZON TVCabo is gravitating to Docsis 3.0 gateways as it upgrades its network for faster, wideband-based services. The MSO has launched 50 Mbit/s and 100 Mbit/s (downstream) Docsis 3.0 tiers in about 30 percent of its footprint under the ZON Net Wideband brand, offering it to about 1 million homes.

The MSO is starting off with standalone wideband cable modems from multiple suppliers, but it's already committed to buy a new Docsis 3.0 gateway from Hitron Technologies Inc. that supports the Jungo middleware. Sanches expects to have that product in hand by the fourth quarter of this year.

At that point, it's ZON TVCabo's intention to provide a cable modem gateway to all its Docsis 3.0 customers. It also wants to do the same for its lower-end Internet service tiers, eventually making the gateway the default option.

The second coming
The concept of an MSO taking control of the cable modem gateway or home networking platform is not new: CableLabs developed specifications called CableHome earlier in the decade, but adoption was sparse as most operators were happy to deploy standalone modems and voice-capable embedded multimedia terminal adapters (E-MTAs).

CableLabs has since renamed CableHome as "Home Networking" and placed it under the broader OpenCable/tru2way project umbrella.

So with another approach to management independence now available, will other MSOs follow ZON TVCabo's lead? So far, the Portuguese operator is the only cable player to disclose such a deal with Jungo. The vendor, though, has been advocating the approach for the past 18 to 20 months, according to Jungo's Rom, who believes the concept will catch on in the European and North American cable markets.

Jungo has shipped out more than 18 million software licenses during the past six years or so, but the agreement with ZON TVCable marks its first for a Docsis 3.0 deployment.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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