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IBC: New TI chip supercharges DOCSIS 3.0

Fri, 09/12/2008 - 7:30pm
Brian Santo

AMSTERDAM – Looking forward a year or two when MSOs might be shipping multimedia applications – including multiple video streams – over the DOCSIS channel, Texas Instruments (TI) has introduced a chip here at the IBC show that can bond eight DOCSIS 3.0 channels.

The latest version of the Puma 5 family of chips is the TNETC4840, an 8 x 4 (downstream by upstream) version. Eight DOCSIS 3.0 channels combined will provide up to 320 Mbps, at a time when most U.S. MSOs are considering offering perhaps 50 Mbps to 100 Mbps maximum in residential settings.

Currently, digitally connected homes can be served effectively by bonding four DOCSIS 3.0 channels together, yielding a minimum aggregate data rate of 160 Mbps. Meanwhile, in business applications, 320 Mbps might be attractive.

But TI believes there is still an argument to be made for an 8 x 4 capability in the home. The eight downstream channels that TI’s Puma 5 can aggregate are flexible, in that they can each support frequencies anywhere within the spectrum. That quality makes it especially suitable for the transport gateway systems that TI believes can constitute a huge differentiator for cable operators.

A transport gateway with that much flexible bandwidth would be able to bond the channels for data, explained Peter Percosan, TI’s executive director of broadband strategy, but then dynamically split off channels and dedicate them as needed. For example, “someone comes home and turns on the TV; the gateway just extracts a tuner to find digital video, and you still have a massive data pipe,” he explained.

But simply providing data and a video stream is, in baseball terms, a single, Percosan said. “I think cable should be swinging for the fences. Look at what Verizon is doing in multiroom.”

A transport gateway based on the new Puma 5 processor can flexibly support both narrowband and wideband, which Percosan said is an “under-looked area” when it comes to DOCSIS 3.0.

The capability automatically makes it a multiroom solution, supporting multiple IP-based services to multiple IP devices throughout the home, on a dynamic basis. It could ship multiple streams of IP video to multiple devices.

And a further advantage of the approach, Percosan noted, is that “you don’t have to do anything in the headend” to accomplish any of it.

As a practical matter, U.S. MSOs aren’t likely to be prepared to take advantage of transport gateways until well into 2009, or even 2010, Percosan said, but other markets are much more aggressively exploiting DOCSIS 3.0, and their experience might be instructive.

“Look at Japan,” he said. “DOCSIS 3.0 remade the market in Japan. It’s just going nuts exceeding expectations.”

The chip also demonstrates the potential power of DOCSIS 3.0. “The sad response to DOCSIS 3.0 is ‘OK, where’s DOCSIS 4.0?’ But this shows DOCSIS 3.0 can last ten years. Originally, 3.0 was all about faster data, but in the last year there’s been a dawning realization that maybe this can be used for video.”

The Puma 5’s flexible analog front end enables OEMs to deploy universal service gateways, ranging from low-end systems supporting up to 200 MHz of DOCSIS “capture bandwidth” to high-end full spectrum coverage. Every TI Puma 5 DOCSIS 3.0 solution combines a high-performance DSP-based voice sub-system with TI’s PacketProcessor to deliver uninterrupted voice quality, even under high-speed DOCSIS 3.0 data traffic patterns.

TI is currently sampling the chip. The company did not discuss price, but Percosan noted that since QAM density and tuner density is higher, the new chip is likely to cost a little bit more than previous Puma 5 chips.

"We congratulate TI for developing the industry's first eight downstream DOCSIS 3.0 solution, an innovative breakthrough for IP-based services over cable using both wideband and narrowband tuners to offer architectural flexibility," said Albert (Bud) Taddiken, COO of Microtune. "Microtune has enjoyed a long-term, successful collaboration with TI in pioneering cable solutions such as this one."

More Broadband Direct:

• IBC: New TI chip supercharges DOCSIS 3.0 

• Motorola enhances on-demand platform with AMM 

• Microsoft launches new platform for TV on PCs 

• Harmonic shows off HD encoder, multi-screen transcoder at IBC 

• Envivio lands $25M in new funding round 

• Bright House promotes Kramersmeier to VP of new product development 

• Broadband Briefs for 9/12/08 

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