Cable modem/CMTS

Spec Combo Could Boost Cable IPTV

CANNES, France -- CableLabs and its members are starting to noodle a new version of OpenCable that could pave the way for MSOs to offer a broad range of IP-based video applications directly to the set-top box. This would happen by incorporating Docsis 3.0, an emerging specification that uses channel-bonding techniques to produce shared speeds in excess of 100 Mbit/s.

Speaking here Thursday at the C-COR Corp. (Nasdaq: CCBL) Global IP Summit, CableLabs CTO Ralph Brown said Docsis 3.0 is a "logical extension" to the OpenCable platform, noting that 3.0 has already been added to PacketCable so that a new breed of embedded multimedia terminal adapters (eMTAs), which handle IP voice and Internet services, can take advantage of the more robust platform.

Among other things, OpenCable is a spec that separates out the security element of digital "hosts," such as set-top boxes. Today, those boxes contain a special slot that can house the removable CableCARD, a system that is key to a July 1, 2007, FCC-mandated ban on set-tops with integrated security. (See Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven'.)

Brown said a specific timeline for the new OpenCable project has not been set yet, as CableLabs and its members are still looking at the architectural impact of the concept.

A 3.0-capable hybrid set-top could bond a minimum of four RF channels in the up and down direction. Operators could leverage that pipe to deliver a range of IP-based video services and applications using the spec's faster speeds and ability to handle IP multicast and unicast. MSOs could tap that Docsis pathway to deliver niche, "long-tail" video, or use it to download a movie to the box's hard drive.

An IPTV implementation would also give MSOs the ability to develop and deploy personalized "mosaic" navigation systems because they would not be limited by the number of physical tuners in the device.

The Video Rich Navigation (VRN) system Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is deploying employs mosaics, but the number and types of channels offered within each theme is fixed. ICTV Inc. claims its P:Mosaic app allows users to personalize that experience. (See Comcast Ramps Up 'Video Rich Navigation' and It... Lives! )

Still, bonding channels -- particularly, downstream channels -- via the set-top is not a new concept. Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), Conexant Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CNXT), and STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE: STM) are among the silicon players to announce set-top chips that can bond up to three Docsis 2.0 downstream channels. (See Conexant Bonds With Set-Tops .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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