Pacific Deal Puts S-A Back Into Data Game

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After years of abstaining from data-over-cable products, Scientific-Atlanta Inc. has picked up a ready-made, next-generation cable-modem controller through a sales and distribution deal with upstart Pacific Broadband Communications.

The deal gives S-A exclusive North American marketing and distribution rights to Pacific Broadband's Kodiak cable-modem termination system, as well as nonexclusive worldwide rights to the gear.

The unit, redubbed the S-A Prisma G10, is the first to use advanced physical-layer technology to boost bandwidth capacity. Several major field trials with large MSOs are set for November; the unit will be available by the end of the year.

Cable Television Laboratories Inc., the cable industry's technology consortium, recently said it would develop a Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) 2.0 standard using two scheme options: advanced physical-layer technology with advanced frequency agile time-division multiple access (A-TDMA) and synchronous code-division multiple access (S-CDMA) modulation. Pacific is developing a next-generation CMTS using both schemes, with plans to debut it in 2002.

In recent years, S-A has focused on transmission and digital-video technology, but the company's customers have expressed increasing interest in dual video-data delivery networks, said S-A vice president of network architectures Paul Connolly.

In casting for a technology partner, Scientific-Atlanta hit upon Pacific Broadband. This spring, it made an investment in the San Jose, Calif., startup. The two companies had also worked together on the Prisma Internet-protocol CMTS line card, used to upgrade existing CMTS units.

Pacific had planned to create its own product sales and support infrastructure. But it found some concerns among potential customers.

"The overall concern we heard back from our customer base was they felt very comfortable with our ability to deliver a system, and they felt very comfortable with the core technology," said Pacific vice president of worldwide sales and support Mike Allen. "But the concerns were along the lines of, 'How are you going to support it? How are you going to service it?' "

Those queries led Pacific to begin talking to Scientific-Atlanta about representing the CMTS.

"Those initial dialogues were not an exclusive arrangement, and they very quickly turned into an exclusive arrangement," Allen said.

Access to S-A's well-established sales and service teams is a plus, he said, because "this is a product line that will require a lot of service– a lot of hand-holding. It's a complicated piece of hardware."