Com21 Inc. won a grant to help develop its ComPORT modem, which is designed to operate in an enlarged return path. The grant, funded by the European Union and administered by IDA Ireland, will support work at Com21's European Development Centre in Cork, Ireland.

The grant amount was undisclosed, says Com21 VP of Engineering Charles Cheevers, from his office in Cork.

Com21 has seen success with its ComUnity — an ATM broadband access product line — since 1996, he says, adding that there are "more than a million modems with that protocol and numerous headends, too." This year, the company moved from a platform it's used for years to new technology that employs the CX944 chip from Conexant. The chip is DOCSIS and Euro-DOCSIS-compliant, he says, and can do Com21's "particular protocol with some extra help from us and Conexant."

The resulting ComPort modem is the flagship of the ComUnity line. It's USB and Ethernet-based, and the funds will go to support further development of the modem, Cheevers says.

Networks, including those in the United States, generally use a return path in the 5 MHz to 40 MHz spectrum. The company's goal is to open the 5 MHz to 65 MHz range.

Distributing the grants also helps with economic development in Ireland. "I have an engineering group here and the average experience is 10 years," Cheevers says. "You can appreciate the salary scale."

Ireland has a lot of manufacturing and call centers, and such grants help bring in the higher salaries.

Overall, he says, gaining the grant required a proposal and business plan that went before a review committee at IDA. Because it won the grant over the competition, "The project stands on itself," Cheevers says.