3Com Is the Only Winner In Latest DOCSIS Round5/02/1999 8:00 PM Eastern
Denver -- The latest cable-modem-interoperability
certification went to 3Com Corp. last week, leaving some other major vendors scratching
their heads and waiting to try again.
A total of 10 other contenders fell short of the benchmarks
needed to win Cable Television Laboratories Inc.'s certification that their modems
complied with the industry's Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification,
considered a key element for eventually selling the gear directly to consumers.
While manufacturers had to scrutinize test results before
figuring out what changes they need to make for the next certification wave (beginning May
12), the outcome of CableLabs' eighth DOCSIS-testing wave clearly took some by
Several companies' executives had made public
statements recently about the likelihood that their products would get certified this
"We were shocked," said John Burke, vice
president of marketing for General Instrument Corp.'s advanced-network and
telecom-systems business unit. "Based on the feedback from the last certification
wave and enhancements that we made and submitted for this current round, we had a very
strong sense that we were going to pass."
GI and a variety of other vendors have recently been
announcing further sales of DOCSIS 1.0-based modems or introducing new 1.0-based products,
responding to what they said has been operators' desire to feed their burgeoning
MSOs have also been willing to buy on faith that based on
their own testing and the likelihood that any product modifications would be software
tweaks, they would not run into major interoperability issues by using precertified
product, and that they could easily upgrade their modems if necessary.
"For operators that want to get their
retail-distribution channel moving, DOCSIS certification facilitates that," Burke
said. "But from what we've seen of operators that are looking at continuing
their model of MSO distribution in the near future, in that scenario, DOCSIS certification
is not as important."
Com21 Inc. president Pete Fenner noted that while his
company's "DOXport" modem did not win certification this time, it has
passed interoperability testing with Cisco Systems Inc.'s "Universal Broadband
Router" -- a widely deployed headend system that won DOCSIS qualification from
Fenner also noted that new DOCSIS-modem contracts with
Canada's Mountain Cablevision Ltd. and Denmark's Stofa indicated that lack of
certification was not slowing his business.
"We think that the fact that we're interoperable
with Cisco and that we have a good modem is not going to get in the way of us continuing
to do business in the DOCSIS market," Fenner said.
Besides GI, others that did not win certification in the
last wave included most of the major names in cable-modem deployment. Count among them
Cisco, Com21, Motorola Inc., Nortel Networks, Samsung Telecommunications America Inc. and
Zenith Electronics Corp.
Sony Electronics Corp., Philips Consumer Electronics Co.
and Askey Computer Corp. -- all undergoing certification testing for the first time --
also did not pass.
No DOCSIS qualifications were issued last week for
cable-headend equipment in the latest testing wave, although those results may come in the
next several weeks, CableLabs said.
"This consecutive certification is an indication that
the whole system -- involving vendors, CableLabs, operators and field trials -- is
working," said Rouzbeh Yassini, CableLabs' executive consultant heading the
certification project. "If we had a gap and nobody was certified, that would have
been a key element."
Yassini also noted that 23 vendors have already become
involved in test and interoperability planning for the newly released DOCSIS 1.1 standard,
which incorporates key cable-telephony protocols -- more than three times the number of
protocols involved with DOCSIS 1.0 at the same stage.
The certification of 3Com follows that of Toshiba America
Consumer Products and Thomson Consumer Electronics from the last testing wave, making them
the only three vendors so far to sport the coveted "CableLabs Certified" sticker
on their products.
Barry Hardek, 3Com's director of cable-operator
marketing, said the company expected to announce new deployment deals soon that had been
contingent upon the certification.
The vendor was preparing to ramp up production in
anticipation that certification would spark a surge in demand. The company already deploys
its DOCSIS-based modems with AT&T Broadband & Internet Services (formerly
Tele-Communications Inc.), and it is testing retail sales through CompUSA stores in that
MSO's Spokane, Wash., market.
"In general, I think that there's been a little
bit of a drag effect" while waiting for certification, Hardek said. "Having it
is something that really puts a little wind in your sails. This certainly is going to help
to expedite retail deployments."