Taking an early glance at the promise of DOCSIS 3.0, U.K.-based MSO NTL Inc. is conducting a 100 Mbps channel-bonding data service trial in tandem with ARRIS.

In what follows earlier lab trials, the field test is featuring ARRIS' "Touchstone Wideband Modem" and its "Cadant C4" cable modem termination system (CMTS). Both products use the vendor's "FlexPath" technology, which bonds together up to four channels of bandwidth. In the case of the trial with NTL, which uses EuroDOCSIS specifications, the system will fuse together four slices of 8 MHz spectrum. U.S. cable operators, in comparison, use 6 MHz channels.

ARRIS' FlexPath modems and CMTS use existing DOCSIS 2.0 silicon from Texas Instruments. The CMTS enlists some new software, and the modem repackages multiple tuners into a single package. ARRIS plans to release a commercial version of the FlexPath modem in Q1.

NTL did not say how many customers will get to test the 100 Mbps service. Hans Plug, the senior director of product management for ARRIS' Cadant CMTS line, said most of the Wideband trials ARRIS is involved in start with a small group of friendlies, and then ramp up from there.

"Some customers we are engaged with are in the thousands (of homes) within months," for Wideband trials, he noted.

In addition to NTL, ARRIS has an announced Wideband trial with Hanaro Telecom of Korea.

Plug said the majority of ARRIS' FlexPath focus presently is in Asia, followed by Europe. ARRIS has also received some trial requests from U.S. cable operators, he said.

CableLabs is in the process of finalizing DOCSIS 3.0, a spec that will use channel bonding techniques to drive data speeds to 100 Mbps and higher.