DOCSIS 1.1 Off to a Running Start

10/07/2001 8:00 PM Eastern

The turnaround time for Cable Television Laboratories Inc. to get the first gear certified and qualified under the advanced Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 1.1 standard was rapid. Now the question is, how quick will vendors be in getting 1.1 equipment into the field?

With some DOCSIS 1.1-designed modems and cable-modem termination systems already in field tests, operators could be ready to offer some features enabled by DOCSIS 1.1 — such as tiered bandwidth — by early next year, vendors said.

One of the newly 1.1-certified modem vendors, Toshiba America Consumer Products, is also about to formally unveil its voice-over-Internet protocol modem, the PCX 3000, and announce a major MSO trial of the product.

"Most of the MSOs are indicating that given the choice between voice or data-only modems, if the price is similar, they are more interested in purchasing the voice modems," said Toshiba America spokesman Chris Boring.

Toshiba and three others won the first certifications and qualifications for cable modems and headend equipment built to the DOCIS 1.1 technical specfications. CableLabs also certified a modem from Texas Instruments Inc. — whose reference design was used by Toshiba for its 1.1-certified PCX 2500 modem — and qualified CMTSs from Arris Group Inc. and Cadant Inc.

Cadant says it has already put DOCSIS 1.1 CMTS in the field with several North American operators. They include Lawrence, Kan.-based Sunflower Broadband, which plans to upgrade its offerings to include IP telephony and tiered high-speed-data service — the very types of significant, revenue-generating services DOCSIS 1.1 was intended to foster.

"Operators generally want to stop investing in DOCSIS 1.0 and to stop pouring money into circuit-switched telephony," said Cadant spokesman Tim Doiron, noting that already-deployed DOCSIS 1.0 modems were compatible with all DOCSIS 1.1 CMTSes.

"That's critical," Boring agreed. "We've got almost 2 million of those out there. It's important for MSOs to be able to have the installed base upgraded to 1.1."

The initial DOCSIS 1.0 specification gave the cable industry a platform for ensuring that DOCSIS-based modems and headends from different vendors all would be interoperable with each other. Building on that interoperability, DOCSIS 1.1 is intended to help foster deployment of new revenue-generating services by setting technical standards for such features as different bandwidth tiers and IP telephony.

"The beauty of DOCSIS 1.1 is that it's a software upgrade to the existing technology operators already have," said Rouzbeh Yassini, who heads the DOCSIS initiative for CableLabs. "So in three to six months, a cable operator can update and keep the hardware they already have."

Because DOCSIS 1.1 serves as a foundation for other advanced services such as home networking and packet telephony, Yassini added, its products enable cable systems to provide greater functionality to customers at a reduced operating cost.

Given the complex design and testing process, CableLabs turned out the first certifications with blinding speed. Yassini noted it took 28 months to go from the final DOCSIS 1.1 spec to first certifications, compared with the 33 months spent on DOCSIS 1.0.

DOCSIS 1.0, considered a major step in helping to create a retail market for cable modems, has in fact done so, creating a potentially major cable presence in the voice-over-Internet protocol consumer-electronics game.

"Retail has been a huge success for us," Toshiba's Boring said. "We're getting to the point where almost 20 percent of our (cable-modem) volume is coming from retail."

A number of major MSOs already have deployed DOCSIS 1.0-standard equipment that is considered DOCSIS 1.1-ready.

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