Broadcom Goes Carrier Class

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Hoping to tap the potentially profitable home-networking and Internet-protocol cable telephony businesses, Broadcom Corp.'s new cable-modem chip supports both the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 1.1 (DOCSIS 1.1) and EuroDOCSIS specifications.

Broadcom's new "BCM3352" chip handles four data channels and uses the HomePNA 2.0 wireline home-networking protocol. With extension modules, the chip can also support a number of wireless-networking platforms, such as Bluetooth and 802.11a/b, the company said.

By providing a broadband connection over every existing phone line, that technology will eliminate wiring for additional telephone lines and high-speed-data connections, Broadcom said.

Broadcom director of marketing Rich Nelson said the company's new set of silicon was built using key IP and home-networking chip technology procured in recent acquisitions. Companies that added pieces to the BCM3352 puzzle included Digital Furnace, Epigram Inc., Bluesteel Networks Inc. and Canadian voice-over-Internet-protocol software firm Hothaus Technologies Inc.

The BCM3352-which will adhere to Cable Television Laboratories Inc.'s PacketCable specification-is designed to be a component of residential gateways: broadband-portal devices that use modem and home-networking technologies to share bandwidth among several Internet appliances such as televisions, personal digital assistants and Web pads. That equipment is being designed as an in-home, advanced digital set-top, as well as a device mounted on the outside of homes.

Other "real-world" applications that Broadcom's new silicon will power include PC video conferencing, PC telephony, printer sharing, IP-video services, home-security monitoring and Internet gaming.

Though a former reference design for the silicon required five or six individual chips, the BCM3352 integrates all of those into one, tidy package, Nelson said.

According to the research firm IDC, integrated modem chips housed in customer-premises equipment could grow from 1999's $140 million to approximately $570 million in 2003.

To meet the proverbial "five nines" (99.999 percent) reliability required for the equipment to be truly considered carrier-class, the new chip was designed to withstand out-of-home weathering.

"Though the chip does support indoor mounting, the most extreme requirement is to have it on the side of a house," Nelson said, noting that the BCM3352 can operate in conditions as low as minus-40 degrees Celsius.

The chip is currently available in sample quantities, and will be marketed at $59 each in quantities of 100,000 when it hits full production next year.

"We are currently doing some IP trials with a previous chipset generation," Nelson said. He said he expects cable operators to take a more aggressive stance on VoIP during the second half of 2001.

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