A new company has emerged as a player in the "carrier-class" DOCSIS 1.1 cable-modem-termination-system arena.
After tinkering away in virtual secrecy since March 1999 from its headquarters in Lisle, Ill., Cadant Inc. said it is putting together the final pieces of its "C4" CMTS.
That device supports Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 1.1, along with high-performance and high-availability features typically found only in carrier systems such as class-4 toll-switching equipment.
"We're trying to bring true carrier-class, true wire-speed capability to the CMTS DOCSIS marketplace," Cadant vice president of marketing and product development Gene Rosendale said.
The C4 had its "coming out" in June when Cadant submitted its chassis to Cable Television Laboratories Inc. for a DOCSIS 1.1-inter-operability dry run.
By affixing the carrier-class label to the C4, Cadant's burden is to ensure that the equipment supports "five nines" (99.999 percent) reliability-a standard cable must meet to support lifeline Internet-protocol-telephony services.
By supporting DOCSIS 1.1 specifications, the chassis also must incorporate quality-of-service elements that guarantee bandwidth requirements and prioritize voice, data and video packets.
Cadant also added a few "frosting on the cake" features to its box that go above and beyond DOCSIS 1.1 specifications, chief technology officer Tom Cloonan said.
"Our feature list includes traffic and usage accounting, which MSOs were asking for, plus performance monitoring for MSOs that experience problems in their systems that help them to deal with customer complaints," he said. "The system we've implemented also can help [operators to] observe the details of what their traffic profiles are at any point in time."
On the scalability front, Rosendale said, a single C4 chassis can support 128 upstream channels and 32 downstream channels. Three C4s can be squeezed into a single headend frame, he added.
Additionally, each channel supports flexible upstream and downstream port ratios. On the downstream side, Rosendale said, the C4 can be built to support streams of between 30 megabits per second and 40 mbps. In the upstream, the box can support anywhere from 320 kilobits per second to 10.24 mbps on a single channel.
Now that the company is out in the open, it expects to move ahead quickly on its deployment time frame.
"We're in conversations with several MSOs with regards to a beta trial starting at the end of August," Cloonan said, adding that the company expects to have a number of field betas under way by September and to submit the C4 for CableLabs' first DOCSIS 1.1 certification/ qualification wave later this year.
From there, Cadant plans to unveil the product at the Western Show in December and to follow with a commercial launch in January or February, he added.
To help Cadant achieve those benchmarks, the company has secured $23 million in financing from the likes of Access Technology Partners LP, Chase Capital Partners and Venrock Associates.
Although Cisco Systems Inc. currently dominates the industry's CMTS market with a market share north of 90 percent, Cadant believes its DOCSIS 1.1 box can serve as a key to unlock cable-operator doors.
"The MSOs are quite open and are very interested in talking to everybody" about DOCSIS 1.1 equipment, Rosendale said. "They're all not necessary happy with primary vendors or the solutions they're offering. There seems to be an eagerness to look at the new options."
To feed that eagerness, Cadant has built a technical-advisory council made up of "very prominent, well-connected people" in the cable industry who might be revealed in the next month, he said, adding, "We believe the connections we have with the MSOs are sufficient."
While cable connections can often turn talks into deployment deals, the industry's eventual shift to 1.1 will generate opportunities for emerging CMTS players such as Cadant, Broadband Access Systems Inc. and RiverDelta Networks Inc., Kinetic Strategies Inc. president Michael Harris said.
Those opportunities could stretch to include alliances with well-established CMTS vendors that could be feeling the pressure to release a box that addresses DOCSIS 1.1 specifications.
"The equipment performance is essential as cable operators transition to 1.1 in terms of packet telephony, reliability and QoS capabilities that are far more stringent than DOCSIS 1.0, which actually provides an open door for the new guys," Harris said. "They may also have to find partnerships in order to provide scale that addresses large customers."
Like RiverDelta-a company that incorporates routing capabilities into its carrier-class box-Cadant is open to discussing equipment partnerships with deeply entrenched CMTS incumbents.
"Several suppliers are talking to us, telling us the state of what their [DOCSIS 1.1] development is and fishing around to understand how we might fit into their picture," Rosendale said.
That picture could change, though, if larger suppliers like what they see. Companies such as BAS, Cadant and RiverDelta could become future acquisition targets for vendors pining for an integrated DOCSIS 1.1 solution, said one MSO executive who is taking a hard look at the specifications and this new breed of CMTS manufacturers.
RiverDelta, Cadant and BAS appear to be in a qualification and deployment race for their respective 1.1 equipment.
BAS' DOCSIS 1.0 "Cuda 12000 IP Access Switch" has already gotten off the mark through deployments with Time Warner Cable of Maine, South Carolina's Catawba Services Inc. and Utilicom Networks LLC, a broadband-communications provider based in Franklin, Mass.