Vendors Land Key DOCSIS Orders

Publish date:
Updated on

Cable Television Laboratories Inc. issued its new advanced
cable-modem-interoperability specification last week, and it prepared to disclose whether
more vendors have met the industry's basic modem standard.

Last week's release of version 1.1 of the Data Over
Cable Service Interface Specification came as one manufacturer announced its first orders
for DOCSIS 1.0-certified product, and as others confidently touted both new DOCSIS-design
equipment orders and their prospects for passing the testing round that ends this Thursday
(April 29).

DOCSIS 1.1 covers advanced features in cable modems
enabling quality-of-service provisions and other functionality needed to provide services
such as Internet-protocol telephony.

Modems and headend equipment must be backward-compatible
with DOCSIS 1.0 gear to win 1.1 certification -- or qualification, in the case of
cable-modem-termination systems -- in testing that is expected to begin next April.

CableLabs will notify manufacturers Thursday whether any of
the 11 that are seeking DOCSIS 1.0 certification will join the two that have already
passed -- Thomson Consumer Electronics and Toshiba America Consumer Products.

Thomson late last week announced a purchase order for
10,000 RCA "DCM105" certified modems from AT&T Broadband & Internet
Services (formerly Tele-Communications Inc.), calling the deal the first shipment of
CableLabs-certified modems.

At the same time, other noncertified manufacturers and
their MSO clients virtually guaranteed that new certifications would come down from the
current testing wave for products that they were already deploying widely.

Cox Communications Inc. said last week that it awarded its
initial contract for an undisclosed number of DOCSIS-based modems to General Instrument
Corp. -- the first of several DOCSIS purchases from various vendors that it plans to
announce over the coming months.

None of GI's "SURFboard" modems has been
certified yet under DOCSIS 1.0, but both Cox and GI characterized that as a foregone

"We believe that their certification is
imminent," said John Hildebrand, director of multimedia technology at Cox and an
observing member of CableLabs' DOCSIS Certification Board.

Separately, Cisco Systems Inc. unveiled its
"uBR924" cable access router, incorporating a cable modem that it said will meet
the DOCSIS 1.1 standard once testing begins next year.

The universal broadband router -- a customer-premises
device for connecting small-business or home-office local-area networks or personal
computers to the cable network -- updates Cisco's "uBR904" model, which
incorporates a DOCSIS 1.0-based modem that still had not won CableLabs certification as of
last week.

Like other vendors that have worked through waves of DOCSIS
testing, Cisco said any remaining obstacles to certification could be taken care of
through software patches and upgrades.

"What we're doing is communicating that the
uBR924 is guaranteed to be DOCSIS 1.0-certified," said Jake Seid, product manager for
the "uBR900" cable-access-router series.

"The certification process takes time, but we want to
guarantee that the 1.0 product will be certified, or we'll replace what cable
operators have deployed," Seid added.

MediaOne Group Inc. is one of the first MSOs testing the
uBR924 as part of its planned IP-telephony solution.

Vendors said their confidence is supported by a variety of
factors, even though it has taken longer than most expected to win the certification that
is considered a necessity before manufacturers and MSOs proceed with plans to begin
selling the product through consumer retail channels over the next year.

John Burke, vice president of marketing for GI's
advanced-network and telecommunications-systems division, said that with GI's modems
already having been tested extensively in the field by MSOs and having met other
interoperability parameters set by high-speed-data service @Home Network, operators like
Cox were comfortable proceeding with DOCSIS-modem rollouts now.

"They all are very confident that certification will
occur [this week]," Burke said. "At this point, many of our customers have made
the decision to move forward."

The Cox deal is a major win for GI, which expects to have
the bulk of Cox's DOCSIS business going forward, Burke said.

Hildebrand said Cox chose GI's DOCSIS modems over
those of its current proprietary modem supplier, Motorola Inc., for a variety of factors,
including GI's progress so far through CableLabs' certification process.

He added that Cox had discussed the factors behind
GI's inability to win certification in the last testing wave, and it agreed with the
vendor's assessment that any changes necessary in its pre-certification DOCSIS modems
could be achieved with software upgrades in the field.

Hildebrand said Cox -- which offers high-speed-data service
as an @Home affiliate in nine markets -- was taking the same approach with GI's
"SB3100" modem, which supports DOCSIS 1.1 and which is included in the new

Other vendors besides GI are also trying to reassure
clients that they can buy uncertified DOCSIS 1.0 products without fear of major headaches

Antec Corp. chairman John Egan has said that the
company's Arris Interactive LLC partnership with Nortel Networks had been holding
back shipments of DOCSIS-designed modems to customers such as AT&T Broadband until the
product was certified. It did so in the hopes of limiting the amount of product in the
field that it would have to upgrade later.

"Our understanding now is that any potential changes
that would come out of the certification process are software-downloadable," Egan
said. "The product that we are shipping to customers, we are shipping with the
guarantee that it will be DOCSIS-compatible."

Besides the DOCSIS 1.1 specification, CableLabs last week
also issued its new "Baseline Privacy Interface Plus" (BPI+) spec, enhancing the
data-privacy and service protections of DOCSIS 1.0 with digital certificate-based
authentication of cable modems and their users.

BPI+ is intended to support the sale of premium multicast