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Cisco Readies Small Cable Operators For Big Bandwidth

At the front line of the triple-play networking revolution are the cable modem termination systems (CMTS) employed by cable operators that deliver bandwidth to end-user cable modems.

But with the need for increasing amounts of bandwidth, it's not always easy for small operators and deployments to handle demand, which is where networking behemoth Cisco is stepping in with its new Universal Broadband (uBR) 7225VXR CMTS platform.

The 7225VXR is one of the smaller CMTS devices sold by Cisco and is targeted at smaller operators and sites that need to deliver bandwidth-intensive triple-play IP-based services.

"What we've basically done is taken one of the DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) line cards that plug into our medium-size CMTS product and built a smaller chassis around it," John Mattson, marketing director for Cisco's cable termination system products, told internetnews.com. "It plays in the pizza box space as it's a very small footprint device with very high capacity and the ability to support advanced services."

Mattson added that this size works well in campus-type environments and could go into a cruise ship or wherever there is a need for bandwidth in a confined space.

Among the advanced services that it will be able to handle is DOCSIS 3.0, which Mattson noted the 7225VXR will be able to do through a line-card upgrade when DOCSIS 3.0 becomes more generally available.

DOCSIS is the cable-modem standard used by the majority of cable modems with the current versions being DOSCIS 1.1 and DOCSIS 2.0. The 3.0 specification offers the promise of greater bandwidth speeds, both upstream and down, as well as support for IPv6.

According to Mattson, Cisco already can do all the DOCSIS 3.0 functionality in existing hardware in some of its products. He noted that Cisco is also working on new silicon that further enhances the scalability for DOCSIS.

"The real gate for DOCSIS 3.0 is the silicon for the modem," Mattson noted.

Among the cable-modem vendors that need to ramp up are Cisco's own Linksys and Scientific Atlanta divisions. He expects that it will take another year to 18 months until DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems are widely available.

"Meanwhile operators want to know that it will work," Mattson said. "I don't think there is anyone that doesn't think they need to go there [DOCSIS 3.0]. From a CMTS point of view they want to know that they are protected. When modems become available they can deploy at whatever pace they choose, too."