Com21 Expands U.S. Cable Efforts

After several years of silence in the U.S. cable-modem controller market, Com21 Inc. plans to make some noise in 2002, as it shifts its domestic focus from just Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification modems to more of a full-system play.

The Milpitas, Calif.-based company earlier this month unveiled its DOXcontroller XB system lineup, which combines an upgraded Network Management and Provisioning System (NMAPS) software with a DOXcontroller 1000 cable-modem termination system.

The package is meant for operators who've deployed Com21 modems and now want the complementary control and network-management gear. It also provides a DOCSIS upgrade option for operators that use Com21's older asymmetric transfer mode-based ComUNITY Access systems.

The XB — with XB standing for extreme bandwidth — is DOCSIS 1.0- and DOCSIS 1.1-compliant with added advanced-physical layer time-division multiple access [TDMA] capabilities, able to support virtual local-area networks, quality of service, optimized scheduling and spectrum analysis applications. It is expected to enter customer trials this spring.

"The quiet focus has been on DOCSIS, on getting a solid 1.1 modem offering to expand the business," said Com21 vice president of DOCSIS products Dave Baran. "So we have sort of kept our mouths shut while we have been doing the engineering. Now that we are getting very close to the game, we decided it was time to open our mouths."

Years ago, Com21 dabbled with a DOCSIS CMTS system but shelved that product, deciding instead to focus on asynchronous transfer mode [ATM] systems popular in Europe.

The company decided to re-enter the U.S. market based on the evolution of DOCSIS 1.1.

Despite the competitive nature of the CMTS market, Com21 thinks its new lineup will appeal to MSOs that have deployed its modems, such as Comcast Corp.

"There is a lot of functionality that our traditional ComUNITY customers had that we could not deliver on DOCSIS just with the modem or just with the CMTS," Baran said. "But by having both, we are able to do some advanced system things."

Com21's move will help it provide operators that deployed older ATM systems with a way to upgrade to DOCSIS. However, many of its U.S. customers have already done so, said Kinetic Strategies president Michael Harris.

So how will the new Com21 DOCSIS system sell? "I think that remains to be seen as North America goes," said Harris. "But again, where they have those existing customers, where those customers want to add DOCSIS to their existing offerings and keep the Com21 management environment they already have, it is a no-brainer."