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Cisco Adds Compact Router to Cable Mix

As video services ranging from Internet Protocol television to video on demand sprout up on cable and telco networks, Cisco Systems Inc. has come out with a new compact router it said can help providers fit the supply of programming to subscriber demand.

The new compact Carrier Routing System-1 (CRS-1) unit offers four 40-Gigabit-per-second slots — essentially connections for incoming and outgoing data — totaling 320 Gbps in switching capacity.

The slots can be configured to take in multiple video, data and voice streams traveling over different connections, ranging from Gigabit Ethernet to packet synchronous optical network (SONET) and dense wave-division multiplexing optical systems. It then forwards that traffic to edge devices, such as cable-modem termination systems that, in turn, feed subscriber homes.

Available beginning in November and priced starting at $160,000, the unit joins larger CRS-1 router versions offering eight and 16 slots of switching capacity that have been deployed with operators including Comcast Corp., Canadian telco SaskTel and several operators overseas.

Because it is more compact, the four-slot CRS-1 router is designed for regional cable data hubs and telephone-company data centers, giving operators a lower-cost way to deliver voice, video and data, particularly in smaller markets, or to support services just getting off the ground.

The four-slot CRS-1 and its larger brothers all use a common operating system and related software, so if the operator wants to replace the four-slot router with a larger version, that won't require a lot of reconfiguration.

The common operating system, processors and IP packet-processing software “is somewhere in excess of 60% or arguably 70% of the [capital expenditure] of a system,” said Mark Milinkovich, Cisco's director of service provider solutions marketing.

The entire line is aimed at dealing with the increase in video traffic on telco and cable operators' networks, and the bandwidth load that brings. As more providers offer an expanded lineup of TV channels — including HDTV channels, streams feeding multiple TVs and digital video recorders — as well as voice-over-Internet Protocol phone service and high-speed cable modem service, estimates are that by 2010, each home will require a connection between 25 Mbps and 50 Mbps carrying upwards of a Terabyte of data traffic per month, Milinkovich said.

“As we see convergence to IP across different networks, we really are seeing new and innovative services come through by this,” Milinkovich said. IP is “really alive and well, and video is going to be the killer app that is going to drive the next expansion growth for this industry.”