Role in Existing Set-Tops Unclear


The embedded DOCSIS initiative may be ready in time to corral most of the future integrated devices, but there are already cable-modem-enabled set-top boxes up and running throughout MSO territories — and how they will come under the new specification's rein isn't entirely clear.

Among the digital boxes already equipped with the new Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification modems is Scientific Atlanta Inc.'s Explorer 4200 unit, which began shipping recently to Cablevision Systems Corp.

Since the eDOCSIS specification is still in draft stages, "it's going to be hard for us to say we are compliant or not compliant at this point," according to S-A director of strategic marketing for subscriber networks Dave Davies.

"I think it's hard for me since we haven't seen the spec to comment on that question, because obviously we could already be compliant depending on the specification, or it could require hardware or software changes," Davies said.

Similarly, Motorola Inc.'s DCT-5100 high-definition digital set-top with DOCSIS modem capabilities also has shipped to a number of MSOs. Still, Motorola is not overly concerned about making it compatible with the eDOCSIS specifications, saying that will be up to the MSO customers.

"Normally we have a test procedure — a test methodology for all of the functions in the box that they are satisfied with," said Ray Bontempi, Motorola manager of systems engineering. "They are buying the box, and it is their box, and if they are not satisfied with the way it works they yell at us and we fix it."

Nor does Motorola think there will be a major conflict between the eDOCSIS specification and what it has delivered in the DCT-5100.

Motorola will support the new specification if its cable customers demand it. The box maker has already gone through that process with a similar EuroDOCSIS initiative overseas, where it has two of the three certified integrated designs.

"I have not heard of any cable operator expressing any strong desire for us going through some sort of certification for DOCSIS for the box," Bontempi said. "So we kind of look at is as, yeah, more than likely the box as is with the DOCSIS software in it would meet whatever spec they had. If not, we do a download to fix whatever little piece is needed."