DOCSIS 1.0, 1.1 Share a Wave 16

After further review and amid a chorus of gripes from cable-equipment vendors, Cable Television Laboratories Inc. has decided to forgo its decision to make Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification certification wave 16 a 1.1-only affair.

Instead, the wave, which kicks off Oct. 23, will test 1.1 and 1.0 wares simultaneously, CableLabs senior vice president of communications Mike Schwartz said.

"Some vendors were vocal about wanting to get their 1.0 products into the last wave of 2000," Schwartz said. Wave 15, which is currently under way, is testing 35 modems and five cable-modem-termination systems.

CableLabs disclosed last month that the October wave would be the first to test products based on DOCSIS 1.1 specifications.

The DOCSIS 1.1 specs are the underpinnings of PacketCable, an industry initiative that will provide the multimedia architecture cable operators will need to offer Voice-over-Internet-protocol services and more advanced applications such as virtual private networks and interactive gaming.

CableLabs has planned a PacketCable 1.0 interoperability-conformance trial for late this year, and it has already started to release the compliance test plans that will serve as a tool for gauging product performance as far as PacketCable specifications.

According to an MSO source familiar with the situation, a number of 1.0-qualified CMTS vendors might be reluctant to see DOCSIS 1.1 testing enter the fray right now because they recognize that 1.1 systems might require forklift

upgrades and operators considering new market launches might give pause to deploying any additional 1.0 inventory if 1.1 wares were right around the corner.

Regardless, the combined wave "is very good for the industry," the source said, noting that the shared 1.0 and 1.1 testing will create more work for CableLabs, "but getting 1.1 started is worth it."

In addition to providing the framework for PacketCable, DOCSIS 1.1 also ensures that voice calls and data calls can be handled simultaneously, and breaks down packets into well-defined IP streams.

Due to the complicated testing process for the more robust DOCSIS 1.1 platform, CableLabs originally planned to test only 1.1 products during wave 16, and then to follow with a 1.0-only wave and a second 1.1 round sometime in January.

In fact, CableLabs and a host of equipment vendors are working on an "Automated Testing Platform" to create a more efficient testing method for 1.1 products. The ATP should be ready by the September to November time frame, CableLabs director of broadband-test programs Thomas Gallagher said during a recent briefing.

The ATP "will turn minutes into seconds," Gallagher forecast.

While DOCSIS 1.0 testing already includes some automated processes, 1.1 "has to be automated." Gallagher added. "DOCSIS 1.1 testing is extremely complex. If we don't get this automated, [the testing process] will break down."

In April, CableLabs started to select core development teams that will build the new ATP for DOCSIS 1.1. That group-which reads like a "Who's Who" in the cable-equipment market-is divided into 12 teams, each managing 12 separate projects related to equipment layers such as media-access control.

On the vendor side of the 1.1 equation, Broadband Access Systems Inc., Cadant Inc. and RiverDelta Networks Inc. said they plan to submit their respective CMTS gear for the virgin 1.1-qualification wave.

A Cisco Systems Inc. spokeswoman said the company is still evaluating whether it will toss in its 1.1 chassis for testing during wave 16.

As for cable-modem vendors, Motorola Broadband Communications Sector, Com21 Inc., FutureNetworks, HighSpeed Surfing Inc., Joohong Information & Communication Ltd., Terayon Communication Systems Inc., Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. and Zoom Telephonics Inc., among others, all claimed to have 1.0 models that can be upgraded to 1.1 via simple software downloads.

Because 1.1 specifications are much more complex than 1.0 specs, certification and qualification of the more powerful products likely won't be a walk in the park.

It took seven certification rounds before Toshiba and Thomson Consumer Electronics finally broke through with passing grades in March 1999, becoming the first cable-modem vendors to win the coveted 1.0 certification seal.

It could be well into the first quarter of 2001 before 1.1 products gain certification or qualification, industry sources predicted.