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Cable/Video

MSOs, CableLabs Seek Docsis 3.0 Kit

With cable operators facing a capacity crunch worldwide, CableLabs is now trying hard to make up for lost time.

CableLabs and its counterpart, Cable Europe Labs , have issued a joint request for information (RFI) seeking to find equipment that would comply with the industry's new Docsis 3.0 technical standard. Acting on behalf of more than 30 of their MSO members, the two R&D groups sent out the request early last month, although the announcement only became public yesterday afternoon.

The RFI asks cable and telecom equipment manufacturers for information on any Docsis 3.0 cable modems, cable modem termination systems (CMTSs), and PacketCable embedded multimedia terminal adapters (E-MTAs) they might be developing. It also asks about any other products that vendors might be developing to meet the latest Docsis spec, which is designed to greatly boost both cable broadband bandwidth and modem speeds through a process called "channel-bonding."

The RFI tells equipment makers to send technical data on the planned products to CableLabs, while pricing information goes straight to the sponsoring cable companies themselves. The deadline for vendor responses is Dec. 11.

So far, a record-high 32 MSOs, including at least 13 U.S. and four Canadian cable operators, are participating in the RFI. The lineup includes all of the biggest North American MSOs, as well as many of European ones.

"There is a lot of interest in it, both from our members and EuroCableLabs members," notes Michelle Kuska, VP of broadband access for CableLabs. "It is a rather large group."

CableLabs officials declined to say much more about the RFI. Unlike some similar RFIs or RFPs in the past, the organization did not make the actual document itself public.

The transatlantic move comes about three months after CableLabs, accused by some critics of dragging its feet on Docsis 3.0, finally issued the next-gen spec after more than two years of work. The R&D group finished drafting the complicated new standard this past summer after its MSO members deflected efforts by some leading vendors to rush out an interim Docsis 2.0b spec that would have raised cable modem download speeds much sooner than Docsis 3.0, which is expected to take two or more years to implement fully.

The move also comes about two months after CableLabs staged a large closed-door meeting with equipment manufacturers in New York to stress the importance of developing Docsis 3.0 gear swiftly. At the meeting, participants say, top MSO technology executives emphasized that they need the new channel-bonding equipment to stave off competition from upgrading phone companies.

"Overall they made a strong statement that Docsis 3.0 is critically important to their business and they want us to go as fast as possible," says Roger Slyk, director of product marketing for BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) "We got that message loud and clear."

— Alan Breznick, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:32:46 AM
re: MSOs, CableLabs Seek Docsis 3.0 Kit Docsis 3.0 will follow IMS and IP-PV into the dustbins of history. These overly complex, expensive and slow-moving standards will never keep up with innovation from the open Internet, using a simple but fast network to connect ever more capable end points.
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:32:42 AM
re: MSOs, CableLabs Seek Docsis 3.0 Kit Dear alchemy:

Thank you for the Docsis 2.0 info. While Docsis 2.0 may be improved on from here, the fact remains that it is the open internet that is being used to distribute leading content. It seems to me that the growing popularity of video sharing sites, pioneered on the open internet, is pushing interest in Docsis 3.0 due to its higher upload speeds.

Meanwhile, no one is talking about a total re-invention, along the lines of Docsis 3.0 or IP-TV, needed to make the open internet ready for the next 10 years. It is not perfect, with security being a huge issue. However, the fact remains that constant updating of the end points, often done as USER expense, keeps this simple architecture the one to beat. My guess is that the closed and complex networks will just fall farther behind with time. That is, unless they succeed at using their monopoly powers to close that nasty open internet, with its perverts and content thieves, off once and for all.
alchemy 12/5/2012 | 3:32:42 AM
re: MSOs, CableLabs Seek Docsis 3.0 Kit materialgirl writes:
Docsis 3.0 will follow IMS and IP-PV into the dustbins of history. These overly complex, expensive and slow-moving standards will never keep up with innovation from the open Internet, using a simple but fast network to connect ever more capable end points.

DOCSIS has been the most successful broadband access technology. The DOCSIS 2.0b tweaks to add limited downstream channel bonding and IPv6 could have been implemented with existing silicon. The real question is whether the extra features in DOCSIS 3.0 are needed now when what's really needed is to continue splitting fiber nodes to add capacity and clean up the signal on the HFC plant. If you really need the bandwidth of upstream channel bonding, you're probably going to drag a dark fiber to the CPE and run some metro ethernet variant. DOCSIS security is imperfect since BPI+ uses 56-bit DES but that's not a show stopper at the moment. The vendors are pretty busy making money (at fairly low profit margins which was the whole MSO goal with DOCSIS in the first place)from DOCSIS 2.0 gear. It's understandable that they're in no hurry to spend all the money to develop to the DOCSIS 3.0 standard. Much of the deployed DOCSIS network is still on DOCSIS 1.1 driven by older Cisco UBR VXRs so it's easy to question the sense of urgency. 3.0 will happen eventually but I doubt it will be at the pace the MSOs want no matter how much the MSOs and CableLabs flog the vendors.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:32:42 AM
re: MSOs, CableLabs Seek Docsis 3.0 Kit
alchemy,

DSL has many more subscribers than DOCSIS does on a worldwide basis. The only place cable has a lead is the US.

seven

Michael Harris 12/5/2012 | 3:32:39 AM
re: MSOs, CableLabs Seek Docsis 3.0 Kit It seems to me that the growing popularity of video sharing sites, pioneered on the open internet, is pushing interest in Docsis 3.0 due to its higher upload speeds.

Two words best characterize the source of MSO interest in Docsis 3.0: FiOS and U-verse. :)
alchemy 12/5/2012 | 3:32:36 AM
re: MSOs, CableLabs Seek Docsis 3.0 Kit Materialgirl write:
It seems to me that the growing popularity of video sharing sites, pioneered on the open internet, is pushing interest in Docsis 3.0 due to its higher upload speeds.

Michael Harris replied:
Two words best characterize the source of MSO interest in Docsis 3.0: FiOS and U-verse. :)

I still question the need for a big fat upstream pipe for residential use. All you're doing is enabling content theft. The MSO business is to resell content. The Verizon FIOS business model is to resell content. With node splits and plant cleanup projects, there's no reason why the MSOs can't offer a megabit upstream and a much fatter downstream pipe using DOCSIS 2.0b and existing silicon. The MSO problem is a shortage of spectrum to run data services that can only be fixed by node splits & plant cleanup; or revamping their entire plant to open up higher frequencies. In the short term, I don't see the MSOs paying once again to completely rebuild their plant after they just got done telling Wall Street that they didn't have to. Bigger upstream pipes just make the problem worse.

If I were a content provider (Disney, Sony, etc), I'd be looking at ways to force the internet service providers to clamp down on content theft. Violating copyright laws is, after all, a crime and the ISPs are knowingly allowing their access networks to be used to commit crime. We wouldn't want Tom Cruise and Justin Timberlake to have to sell their Gulfstream V's, would we?
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:32:35 AM
re: MSOs, CableLabs Seek Docsis 3.0 Kit
alchemy,

Compare a Slingbox on FiOS sometime to one on DOCSIS cable.

That is the first application.

seven
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:32:34 AM
re: MSOs, CableLabs Seek Docsis 3.0 Kit Dear Alchemy:
If we just kept to those horse and buggys, we would not have 50k traffic deaths per year either. Two way video is the way the world is going. Where it leads, not even the great MG knows for sure (imagine that). However, to keep looking at the Internet as a modified 1950s content transport medium will prove costly to you over time. It is why old folks get called "fossils". Read "The Long Tail" for details.
Michael Harris 12/5/2012 | 3:32:29 AM
re: MSOs, CableLabs Seek Docsis 3.0 Kit I still question the need for a big fat upstream pipe for residential use.

In part, this is a market segmentation issue. Many consumers will be satisfied with a cable modem service that can deliver very fast downstream speeds with limited upstream bandwidth. Other users will want symmetric speed and pay for it. The question is, do MSOs need to make massive upstream investments to serve that segment in the near term? What's funny is that Verizon is primarily selling FiOS in an asymmetric configuration today (i.e. slower upstream). Also, let's remember, this entire discussion for the U.S. market only matters within the FiOS footprint, which will cover only about 15% of cable homes passed within 5 years. For the other 85% of homes passed, it seems unlikely any flavor of DSL will offer better performance than Docsis 2.0 or 3.0 in the near term.
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