Broadcom Vaults Ahead in D3.1 Race

Broadcom is moving cable operators a step closer to DOCSIS 3.1, and with it, the ability to deliver much higher broadband speeds over existing HFC networks.

The silicon vendor announced today at IBC that it has three new D3.1 chips ready for testing in Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) systems. The new solutions include two PHY devices -- the upstream BCM31442 receiver and downstream BCM3047 transmitter, and the BCM3222 MAC device enabling cable modem access to network resources. The products all work with Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM)'s recently introduced D3.1 silicon for cable modems.

Technically speaking, no products are certified as meeting the DOCSIS 3.1 specification yet. But pre-certification technology is in the field, and CableLabs recently opened up its process for product testing, with submissions for the next certification wave due on October 5. The first D3.1 certifications are likely to be announced in mid-January. (See Clock Starts on DOCSIS 3.1.)

Alongside STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE: STM) and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), Broadcom is one of three main chip vendors with D3.1 cable modem technology. However, with its new silicon announced at IBC, Broadcom is laying claim to being the first provider of an end-to-end DOCSIS 3.1 platform.

Broadcom has also highlighted in its announcement support for DOCSIS 3.1 from major service providers and network vendors. Specifically, the company cites Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) and Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) as early adopters of its D3.1 technology. Arris, which is a leader in CCAP deployments, has made it clear that its existing E6000 devices in the field can support DOCSIS 3.1 with what it calls "an elegant and rapid upgrade." The company shipped more than 750 CCAP chassis in the last quarter alone. (See Slumping Video Sales Hurt Arris Results.)

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Among service providers, Comcast leads the charge with live DOCSIS 3.1 field tests ongoing since March. Both Comcast and Liberty Global expect to roll out early commercial deployments by the end of this year, with mass deployments coming in 2016. Much of the industry is expected to follow suit in 2017 and 2018 in an effort to stay ahead of telecom rivals with gigabit broadband services.

Separately today at IBC, Broadcom also announced updates to its mid-range chipsets for cable and IPTV set-tops. The upgrades support High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), and the new chips can be dropped in to existing production lines for rapid deployment.

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

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