Claiming that it’s offering a way for cable operators to future-proof their modems as they prepare to shift to DOCSIS 3.1, Peregrine Semiconductor has introduced an RF switch that’s enables a dual upstream/downstream architecture in support of the next-gen, multi-Gigabit IP platform.
That switch comes in the form of the company’s UltraCMOS PE 42722, a product that Peregrine hopes will find a home in a new class of DOCSIS 3.1 devices that will initially be deployed as hybrids that are capable of supporting fresh D3.1 spectrum as well as legacy DOCSIS 3.0-based spectrum. The dual-band switching capability in the UltraCMOS PE 42722 will help operators transition to D3.1 without having to swap out modems as operators tweak and modify how much spectrum is being dedicated to the downstream and the upstream directions, the company said.
That will come in handy, Peregrine believes, as operators look to widen the upstream pipe. Today, North American cable operators typically use an upstream block that spans 5 MHz-42 MHz, but down the line could move forward with a “mid-split” that raises it to 85 MHz, or execute a “high-split” that raises the upstream to the neighborhood of 200 MHz.
DOCSIS 3.1 also provides headroom for spectrum that is upgraded beyond 1GHz. When matched with higher modulations that pump out more bits per second per hertz (4096-QAM and beyond) and the introduction of Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM) and a new forward error-correction scheme called Low Density Parity Check (LDPC), DOCSIS 3.1 is targeting downstream capabilities of 10 Gbps and upstream capacities of at least 1 Gbps.
Peregrine’s dual-band switching approach will provide operators with a level of future-proofing because they won’t need to replace the CPE to account for those potential spectrum scenarios, Kinana Hussain, the vendor’s senior marketing manager, said, noting that the vendor’s switch will allow operators to change the configuration on those modems remotely.
The approach, which prevents MSOs from having to manage a different CPE product lineup for each type of upstream split, “enables cable operators to transition in a smooth fashion…as their infrastructure catches up,” he said. “We are enabling the flexibility that has not existed.”
“DOCSIS 3.1 was made for us” because Peregrine’s switch maintains high linearity (and therefore less distortion as modulations increase), added Duncan Pilgrim, Peregrine’s VP of marketing.
Peregrine’s plan is to partner up with silicon makers and to have its switch integrated into their coming DOCSIS 3.1 reference designs. Peregrine hasn’t announced any specific partner, but Intel, STMicroelectronics and Broadcom are among the companies known to be working on D3.1 silicon. Hussain said Peregrine is also working with some major CPE vendors that have DOCSIS 3.1 on their product roadmaps.
Hussain said Peregrine has been sampling the UltraCMOS PE 42722 for about six months and is now ready for a wider product release.
Peregrine acknowledges that mechanical relays from companies such as Tyco and Panasonic can offer similar assistance, but argues that those are non-starters because they can’t be used in cable CPE.
But it won’t be surprising to see other suppliers look into the kind of approach Peregrine has developed. One possible candidate is Qorvo, the name of a new company resulting from the merging of RF Micro Devices Inc. and TriQuint Semiconductor.
According to the most recent estimates from CableLabs, initial DOCSIS 3.1 “plugfests” are expected to get underway later this year, and follow with official product certification and qualification testing by the first half of 2015.