Arris Kicks Off D3.1 Modem Race

Certifications for DOCSIS 3.1 are barely underway, but Arris is nonetheless unveiling its first D3.1 cable modems at this week's SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in New Orleans.

Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) has announced two DOCSIS 3.1 modems; one for cable operators known as the Touchstone CM8200, and one for retailers using the old Motorola Surfboard brand and given the model number SB8200. Eventually, these modems will enable multi-gigabit broadband speeds, but in the short term they'll operate on existing DOCSIS 3.0 networks until MSOs make headend upgrades to DOCSIS 3.1. Arris highlights that fact with its retail modem, noting specifically that the Surfboard device supports 32 downstream and eight upstream QAM channels with channel bonding capabilities.

At Cable-Tec Expo, Arris has also said it will show its E6000 CCAP chassis running both DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1 modems. Arris has repeatedly made the point that its E6000 hardware can be upgraded to D3.1 with only a software update. Once done, an operator can then mix D3.0 and D3.1 technology, creating a staged subscriber upgrade process while regularly freeing up new spectrum (DOCSIS 3.1 is spectrally more efficient) as subs are migrated over to the newer specification.

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As for availability, Arris plans to make its new DOCSIS 3.1 modems generally available in 2016 and also add on new telephony modems and voice and data gateways to the product line. By that time, Arris may well be able to claim full D3.1 certification for the hardware. The deadline for submissions in the most recent CableLabs certification wave was October 5, with results expected to be announced in mid-January. (See Broadcom Vaults Ahead in D3.1 Race.)

The timing works well for operators like Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) and Videotron Ltd. , all of whom plan to move forward with major D3.1 deployments in 2016.

Arris, of course, also isn't the only company with a stake in D3.1 modems. Vendors in the modem game include Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Pace plc and Technicolor (Euronext Paris: TCH; NYSE: TCH), among several others, many of whom demonstrated their D3.1 customer premises equipment at an interop event staged by CableLabs last month. (See DOCSIS 3.1 Is Right on Schedule.)

Further demos are expected at Cable-Tec Expo this week.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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