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CableLabs to lower, raise some fees in '04

Tue, 12/02/2003 - 7:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner

CableLabs (http://www.cablelabs.com) will ring in the new year by reducing many of the fees tied to equipment qualification and certification testing for DOCSIS and PacketCable.

The lower fees likely will be welcomed with open arms by the vendor community, some of them cash-strapped startups that have been hit by reduced MSO capital spending in recent years.

Under the new pricing schedule, DOCSIS cable modem certification fees will be lowered from $70,000 to $55,000, while re-certification fees will drop from $45,000 to $35,000.

Certification of "paper" changes (altering the color of a cable modem's plastic shell, for example) will also go down - from $15,000 to $10,000 - for consumer-side devices. Paper change qualification fees for cable modem termination systems (CMTSs) and other PacketCable network components such as call management servers, media gateway controllers and media gateways will remain static at $15,000. CMTS DOCSIS qualification testing will also remain at $95,000.

Starting in 2004, CableLabs will also discontinue the practice of combining fees when products are tested against multiple specifications simultaneously. Under 2003 pricing guidelines, a device tested for full certification against DOCSIS, PacketCable and CableHome would cost a vendor $130,000. Next year, those fees will be broken out separately.

Although DOCSIS certification fees will go down next year, fees for PacketCable certification on multimedia terminal adapters (MTAs) will rise. CableLabs presently charges $30,000 for full certification of a PacketCable MTA. Next year, that fee will rise to $55,000 for a standalone-MTA (S-MTA), and $80,000 for the more complex and expensive embedded-MTA (E-MTA). CableHome-only certification fees will also rise in 2004 — from $30,000 to $65,000.

But many other PacketCable fees are set to drop significantly in 2004. PacketCable CMS qualifications, for example, will be lowered from $145,000 to $115,000. Media gateway fees, meanwhile, will only drop by $5,000 to $50,000.

Next year's new pricing structure is part and parcel of an ongoing transition that result in the phasing out of YAS Broadband Ventures as a full-time CableLabs consultant, said Ralph Brown, CableLabs' senior vice president, broadband access. CableLabs disclosed earlier this year that it would move many activities led by YAS in-house by the end of 2004.

In addition to lowering some fees, vendors have also complained that the testing process has been too slow, Brown explained. To meet those needs, CableLabs will expand the number of testing waves it conducts from three to five.

"We are also using better test automation tools to make the overall processes more efficient," Brown said.

CableLabs' first wave of 2004 (cert wave 28) is scheduled to begin in January, with results shared on or around April 16.

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