Convergent Homes In on Cable Telephony

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As the cable-telephony market starts to gain volume, Convergent Networks Inc. has decided to make a leap into that space with a new version of its core network broadband voice products aimed squarely at operators.

Called CohesionCable, the product consists of hardware and software based in PacketCable technology to deliver Internet-protocol Class-4 and Class-5 switching functions.

Lowell, Mass-based Convergent, which has deployed 100 gateways in 14 telco networks nationwide, may appear to be among a group of vendors who've been lured into cable's telephony play by the stalled telco voice market. But the company has had its eye on cable all along, according to Carl Baptiste, managing director of marketing.

"We designed our switch to be a broadband-based packet voice switch from the beginning," he said. "We were very early on interested in the cable market — we made some early movement there, and we continue to evolve in this direction over time. This is just the culmination of all of that, those multiple years of effort in the product."

Thus far, most cable-telephony efforts have focused on the last mile. But Convergent's product sits deep in the network's core, managing the connection between IP voice traffic and the traditional public switched-telephony system.

Positioning the control system further along the network is an advantage, said Baptiste, because it can oversee more combinations of voice traffic.

The CohesionCable product includes a media gateway, which has been expanded to include PacketCable-based interfaces. It can scale to manage between 2,000 and 24,000 simultaneous calls in systems with 10,000 to 120,000 subscribers.

Looking ahead

That may seem like capacity overkill in the early trial stages of voice-over-IP telephony, but Baptiste said operators are starting to look ahead to full rollout with high call volumes. MSOs are also interested in a wider range of voice services, possibly mixing residential and enterprise offerings as part of a larger network architecture.

"You may see some that want to go after small density, simple deployments," Baptiste said. "We are positioned to do high levels of concentration of IP interfaces to the PSTN, and specifically look at the deployment in a different way.

"There are multiple applications that are supported on these networks," he added. "It's not just about residential IP telephony. Almost every major RFP (request for proposal) that we respond to includes some penetration of business services."

Baptiste would not disclose which major MSOs Convergent has negotiated with, but noted, "All of the big names have specifically put in a percentage of businesses passed in addition to the homes, and asked what we can do, applications-wise, to go after business."

Convergent has been active in the development of Cable Television Laboratories Inc.'s PacketCable standard. That's been key in ensuring that the company's equipment will march in step with cable's accepted technology, said Baptiste.

"It's not just about telephony," he said. "Ultimately, it's about moving forward to other applications that continue to help them differentiate.

"We see IP as certainly the mechanism that they can step beyond basic telephony and do more exciting things with applications integration."

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