Taking a design cue from Legoland, Terayon Communication Systems Inc. is offering the first in a new series of snap-on modules to its Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 1.1 modem lineup aimed at giving MSOs mix-and match-options.
Available in first-quarter 2003, the first snap-on will add voice capability to Terayon's existing TJ 700 series modems, including the TJ 715 DOCSIS1.1-certified unit with DOCSIS 2.0 technology.
The Vx module will simply attach to the end of the existing modem, adding the same features as an embedded multimedia terminal adapter.
"The whole form factor — once you snap it on, the modem just looks a little longer," said Sunil Frida, Terayon's senior product manager for the CPE line. "Everything else, including the slots, mashes in.
"Everything that you see on the back end of the modem — your usual [radio-frequency] connector and Ethernet connector or [universal serial bus] connector — you find on the back of the Vx, so it just replicates the back end of the modem. Plus, it has two RJ-11s for your voice."
The only difference between the combined modem and Vx module and Terayon's standard eMTA product is power supply. The module taps into the power supply for the main modem, so at first it will be limited to second-line, non-lifeline telephone service.
"Right now it is second-line support, because we don't have the battery backup," Frida said. "But that is in the game plan."
Nevertheless, with this modular approach Terayon looks to set its product line apart from a fairly crowded modem field by offering MSOs a mix-and-match functionality. Rather than replace the entire modem — or upgrade all of its modems for telephony — an operator can e-mail the voice module to data customers who sign up for voice service.
That brings the added benefit of allowing the MSO to send only the module specific to the customer's service package, Frida said.
"We came to a fork in the road, and we said, 'Do we want to build a monolithic gateway that has everything for everyone and priced as such, or do we want to go with a modular approach, a pay-as-you-go approach?' And the consensus was the latter," Frida noted.
While Terayon is not releasing the cost of the main modem or the plug-on, Frida said it would be "competitively priced."
Next up on the list of add-on modules is likely an 802.11b interface for wireless home networking. But don't think that Terayon is planning a string of plug-ons to stretch the modem across subscriber's computer desks.
Instead, the 802.11b module would be sent only to those customers that want home-networking service. Another module might possibly include voice and 802.11b wireless functions.
"The one thing that we are very cognizant of is not having 16 plug-ons. I think what we are going to do — and this is being discussed right now — is maybe rolling the voice technology onto our wireless technology, with both of them rolled into one," Frida said. "That way, we can basically serve both markets by having two separate plug-ons."