Bonding With Next-Gen Modem Spec

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BigBand Networks, fresh off a successful initial public offering, expects to make more noise in announcing what it claims is the first standards-compliant cable-modem system to support 100 Megabit-per-second pipes.

The vendor said its Cuda modular cable-modem termination system (M-CMTS) is the first on the market, and it supports the downstream-bonding features of CableLabs' Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 3.0, with the release of version 7.0 of the platform's software.

Because the system is DOCSIS 3.0-compliant, operators can deploy high-speed data service while using the same channels to support downstream speeds of up 30 Mbps to existing DOCSIS 2.0 modems, said BigBand vice president and general manager of cable Internet Protocol products John Holobinko.

Cable operators “can harvest additional revenues by leveraging the DOCSIS 2.0 installed base and have that coexist with 100-Meg service,” he said.

BigBand also plans to announce the first customer deployment of the Cuda M-CMTS with Mutikabel, an operator in the Netherlands. The company, a subsidiary of Germany's PrimaCom, has deployed “thousands” of DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems with the BigBand system, according to Holobinko.

DOCSIS 3.0, which CableLabs has not yet officially completed, aggregates multiple quadrature amplitude modulation channels to provide a virtual tunnel to a subscriber's cable modem. Three channels, bonded together, can theoretically provide bandwidth in excess of 100 Mbps — 10 times the speed most cable operators today typically advertise for their data services.

Infonetics Research analyst Jeff Heynen said getting to those ultra-fast bandwidth speeds is “imperative for cable because they have to stay one step of ahead of the Verizons and AT&Ts who are spending aggressively to get to 50 and 100 Megs themselves … Cable would like to keep their broadband subscribers and expand their subscriber bases.”

Holobinko said BigBand's new modular CMTS features allow an operator to deploy channel-bonding less expensively than using an integrated one. For example, a Cuda with 80 downstream channels, running the M-CMTS software, requires just two edge quadrature amplitude modulation devices. An integrated CMTS, by comparison, would require four full chassis of equipment to provide the same capacity.

“Now, downstream channels are 25% of the cost of a downstream channel using a traditional, integrated CMTS,” Holobinko said.

Other vendors, including Cisco Systems, Motorola and Arris Group, have demonstrated “pre-DOCSIS 3.0” versions of their channel-bonding equipment. But BigBand may get a temporary leg up on rivals by coming out ahead of the pack, Heynen said.

“It's a smart move on BigBand's part to open the window of opportunity before the other guys start to offer their 3.0 products,” he said.

True, BigBand's competitors will most likely point out that their CMTSs can be upgraded to support the full DOCSIS 3.0 spec, once it's finalized, Heynen noted. However, the fact that Multikabel has deployed the BigBand system “is proof that some [multiple-system operators] are not going to wait” for the CableLabs to be signed and sealed, he said.

BigBand said it has tested the Cuda M-CMTS with Netgear's DOCSIS 3.0 modems, as well as modems that use Broadcom's BCM3381 chip set for DOCSIS 3.0 channel bonding.

On March 15, BigBand raised about $91 million from its IPO. The company's stock, listed on NASDAQ under the symbol BBND, shot up 31% on the first day of trading — from $13 per share to close at $17 — and was hovering near $18 last week.