Cable modem/CMTS

CableLabs Stamps New Cisco Set-Top

CableLabs has certified a new "residential network gateway" (RNG) set-top developed by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Scientific Atlanta . The R&D house blessed the device as it begins its first round of testing on Docsis 3.0-based modems and headend gear in Certification Wave 56.

CableLabs referred to the new gear as the "8501" in its list of equipment that obtained Docsis certification in Wave 54. But a Cisco official confirmed that the gear approved was indeed the RNG200 set-top, which houses a Docsis 2.0 cable modem and shares traits with a next-gen set-top being tested at Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK).

The SA box received Docsis 2.0 certification from CableLabs and was also approved as a Docsis Set-Top Gateway (DSG), a signaling technique that uses the operator's standard Docsis plant to pipe guide information and other data to the set-top box. The OpenCable Host 2.0 specs also support DSG.

At an investor day in May, Comcast execs previewed devices such as the one approved by CableLabs when it outlined a residential network gateway set-top family. The RNG 200, as explained then, will support MPEG-4 and include high-definition and digital video recording capabilities, with deployments expected as early as this year.

In comparison, the standard-def (MPEG-2) RNG 100 box is tagged for 2008; and the RNG 1000, a "converged CPE" with on-board MPEG-4 and HD technologies, is expected out sometime in 2009. Comcast was not available for comment about any additional deployment plans it might have for the RNG set-top lineup.

An SA spokeswoman said in an email message that the device approved by CableLabs is not linked to any specific trials or deployments with Comcast, and should be considered a "demo" box for now. However, SA has demonstrated the RNG200 with Comcast and has shown off a version (with the Comcast logo affixed) at tradeshows, she added.

Items listed on the data sheet for the new SA/Cisco box share the top-line set-top capabilities disclosed by Comcast in May.

According to the SA documents, its version of the two-tuner, digital-only RNG200 contains a Multi-Stream CableCARD (M-Card) interface so it conforms with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's separable security mandate. It also supports middleware for the OpenCable Platform, MPEG-4 decoding, and a Docsis 2.0 modem that "provides a path for future IP video services" with the addition of optional software.

The device certified by CableLabs also houses an Ethernet port, a USB 2.0 connection, a 160-gigabyte hard drive, and an option for Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) , a coax-based, high-speed home networking platform that TV service providers such as Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) are already using for multi-room DVRs.

What About Moto?
Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Comcast's largest set-top supplier, is also expected to factor heavily into the MSO's RNG plans. In January, Comcast and Motorola announced a next-gen set-top deal that will incorporate Comcast's RNG specs. Others seen as likely participants in the RNG project include Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC), Samsung Corp. , and Pace Micro Technology .

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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