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MaxLinear adds services smarts to its broadband chips

Core silicon remains critical to powering cable modems, gateways and other forms of broadband consumer premises equipment (CPE). But it's also becoming increasingly apparent that these same chips are starting to become conduits for differentiated software and service enhancements that can be marketed and sold by broadband service providers.

MaxLinear, a chipmaker that broadened its move into the cable and broadband CPE market following last year's acquisition of Intel's DOCSIS and Wi-Fi business, took a big step in the services direction via a new partnership with Inango Systems. Under that deal, announced this spring, MaxLinear is integrating Inango's Service Orchestration platform, a move that will enable ISPs to layer on and sell services on top of their baseline broadband offerings.

A virtual gateway that can deliver services such as parental controls, IoT security and Wi-Fi analytics are among the kinds of offerings ISPs are particularly interested in through this technical tie-in, Jonathan Masel, CEO of Israel-based Inango, said. There's also some interest to provide SD-WAN capabilities for CPE products focused on the small- and midsized business sector.

While Inango provides that central virtual gateway component, it can also write the services that are added on top and/or integrate services from third-party partners. With everything tied together, the idea is to support a model that is akin to an app store that is accessible from the cable modem or other type of broadband edge device.

Inango's architecture requires a small software client that can run on legacy CPE as well as new models that are equipped with more memory. MaxLinear will effectively integrate Inango into its new software development kits and also play a role in co-selling and co-licensing the underlying orchestration platform itself.

With initial work centered on lab trials, MaxLinear intends to release the new Inango component as part of its software development kit (SDK) by the third quarter of 2021. The chipmaker will initially focus on its cable-focused products, and then introduce it to its other CPE silicon platforms, including fiber, toward the end of the year, Dorol Tal, vice president and general manager of MaxLinear's broadband access unit, said.

Plume is among the closest competitors to Inango. However, Inango's service orchestrator can also be made to work with CPE that run Opensync, an open source framework that originated with Plume.

Tied to that agnostic approach, Masel noted in a conversation last year with Light Reading that Inango had also developed a version of its Virtual Services platform to run on RDK-B, the pre-integrated software stack for broadband devices being managed by a joint venture of Comcast, Liberty Global and Charter Communications.

The startup has also developed a version for OpenWrt, an open source software stack for retail devices that has linkages to Prpl, a carrier-focused initiative that is drawing interest from both telcos and cable operators.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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