Although a host of cable modem and headend gear suppliers eventually will throw their hats in the DOCSIS 3.0 ring, ARRIS is already touting how it will approach the market with products that will fuse channels together and help cable operators stay in stride (or even ahead) of its high-speed competitors.
Tom Cloonan, the chief technology officer for ARRIS’ broadband division, said the initial version of ARRIS’ pre-DOCSIS 3.0 gear will bond up to four channels – enough for a 160 Mbps downstream pipe – and become commercially available by the fourth quarter of 2005. ARRIS, like other vendors in the sector, will eventually support the bonding of more than four channels. In ARRIS’ case, he added, “nothing precludes us” from bonding up to 32 channels, which would support about 1.28 Gbps, a future-proofing move in case there’s a need for such capacity sometime well down the road.
Cloonan, who spoke Thursday morning during a media and analyst briefing in San Antonio at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, said the necessary upgrades for the company’s C4 cable modem termination system (CMTS) require a new software load to support the bonding of four channels. The initial version of channel-bonded cable modems, meanwhile, will bind together four chipsets. Though the initial gear will look bulky compared to today’s more lithe single-channel modems, the hope is that the device will continue to shrink (in price and physical footprint) as components become more tightly integrated. The cost of the early channel-bonded modems will initially cost no more than $200 per unit. Today’s DOCSIS 2.0 modems, in comparison, sell for about $35 per unit.
Although channel bonding and DOCSIS 3.0 will help operators compete with super-fast fiber-fed data services in North America and provide a fatter pipe for IP-based video services, the desire for the technology is much more amplified today in areas of Europe and Asia.
CableLabs is expected to complete the DOCSIS 3.0 specification by early 2006, and possibly follow with certification and qualification testing later that year or sometime in 2007.