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Juniper Acquisitions Yield Small-System CMTS Gear

Juniper Networks Inc., which recently purchased Pacific Broadband Inc., is introducing a new cable-modem termination system for small-market operators it said is one-fifth the cost of traditional CMTS gear.

The G1 series will sit alongside the company's G10 CMTS product, which is deployed in several undisclosed U.S. cable markets, according to manager of cable-product marketing Chris Bridge.

The G1 is designed to give smaller cable operators with thousands of subscribers the performance characteristics of the larger Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS 1.1) CMTS. It enables such systems to offer not only basic cable-modem service, but Internet-protocol telephony and tiered high-speed data services as well.

Juniper has gone on an acquisition tear in the past year, gobbling up Pacific Broadband and Unisphere Networks Inc. Its Pacific Broadband offerings include the G10 series, now deployed by several MSOs; the company also ships Unisphere's edge-router system.

But many larger MSOs also have smaller systems, and Juniper identified that area as a significant market opportunity, Bridge said.

"We've got great products with scalablity, density and high-bandwidth performance, but what about the smaller properties?" he asked. "We identified a significant hole in the marketplace that nobody was addressing. We saw significant value add for us."

Juniper was even able to take care of one MSO that needed at CMTS solution useful in both large and small markets, said director of product marketing Mike Capuano.

"We've responded [with a design that is] half chassis-based and the other half a compact CMTS solution," he said, drawing a parallel with AT&T Broadband's Headend In the Sky product, which provides small operators with a digital-cable offering.

"The HITS analogy is a perfect example" of providing a cost-effective IP service for smaller systems, he said. "It's the same scenario where our product plays into the sweet spot because they don't have a lot of money to upgrade the return path."

Aims for savings

Today's proprietary high-speed solutions for small cable operators cost too much, said Bridge, who added that current DOCSIS gear can't easily operate in systems with lots of return-path noise.

Juniper packed its new G1 CMTS with its own broadband cable processor.

"We digitize the entire upstream spectrum directly off the line," Bridge said. "We don't have the extra steps and don't introduce new noise levels.

"We offer significantly different performance at a lower price point. We can operate at full 16 QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) at 21 (decibels of) noise."

The G1 CMTS supports eight upstream and two downstream channels.

"We can offer 80 megabits per second up and down," Bridge said. The CMTS supports DOCSIS 1.1 quality of service and 16,000 service flows per unit.

The G1 single-rack CMTS unit can handle 2,000 to 3,000 cable modem users, Bridge estimated. The product is in beta field trials and will be ready for shipment in mid-October, he said.

Juniper prices the CMTS on a per-subscriber basis and claims it costs less than or as much as its competitors' offerings, Bridge said.

Bridge said the G1 can operate with noise levels as low as 10 db. That means that by operating a cleaner plant, smaller operators shouldn't have to send out as many costly truck rolls for service calls. Juniper's ServiceGuard software also helps to troubleshoot CMTS and plant problems, Bridge said.

"Our centralized IP administration reduces service disruptions, and all that minimizes operational expense," Bridge said. For instance, smaller operators can eliminate fiber-node splitting and recombining by utilizing Juniper's dynamic-channel configuration, which automatically load balances upstream channels.

"You don't have to roll trucks to split nodes and you don't have to reboot boxes for IP address changes," he explained.

Once smaller operators open the IP door, Bridge said, they can take advantage of offering the types of business-class services, IP telephony, distance learning and gaming services that bigger MSOs plan to pursue.