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Cable/Video

Microtune Amps Up the Upstream

Microtune Inc. (Nasdaq: TUNE) has rounded out its family of silicon for Docsis 3.0 modems with a tiny amplifier that aims to beef up cable's upstream to the lofty heights of 120 Mbit/s.

That's the high end of the shared upstream speeds specified in the Docsis 3.0 specs, which call for wideband modems to bond a minimum of four channels in both upstream and downstream directions. Each 6 MHz upstream channel can put out about 30 Mbit/s.

The new upstream amp, dubbed the MT1570, complements Microtune's Docsis wideband and narrowband silicon tuners and completes the company's "front-end" offering for Docsis 3.0. The new amp can bond four channels from any available slots from the 5 to 85 MHz swath of spectrum, but the channels used for bonding don't need to be adjacent to each other, according to Cliff Anderson, Microtune's cable marketing manager. (See Microtune Amps Docsis Upstream.)

Amp'd Up[stream]

In addition to the minimum 4x4 configuration required by the CableLabs specs, Microtune says its silicon tuners and amps can also support higher-capacity configurations that can bond up to eight downstream channels and give operators some added flexibility for faster business-class services as well as IP-based video applications. (See TI Flexes Docsis 3.0 Muscle .)

Microtune's "turnkey" approach with the new silicon-based upstream amplifier for Docsis 3.0 will compete against a wideband upstream amp from Anadigics Inc. (Nasdaq: ANAD) that's already on the market. Anderson says Microtune's entry is in production now, with samples already shipping to some of the company's cable modem partners.

Anderson is hopeful that vendors will start to submit wideband modem designs with the new upstream amp on-board for testing at CableLabs when Certification Wave 65 gets underway in mid-January 2009. So far, 11 modem models (stand-alone and voice modems) have been awarded the Docsis 3.0 stamp. (See SerComm Gets Certified.)

Although Asia and portions of Europe are still considered hotspots for Docsis 3.0, wideband deployments are starting to widen in the U.S. as well, thanks in most part to the ambitions of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK). (See Comcast Rolls Wideband in the Pacific Northwest and J:COM Does Docsis 3.0 All Over.)

"Docsis 3.0 is definitely taking off," Anderson says. For Microtune's part, the company has shipped more than 500,000 tuners for use in wideband modems so far, a figure that's expected to eclipse the 900,000 mark by year's end.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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