MaxLinear Bullish on DOCSIS 3.1

Though cable data revenue was flat in Q4, chipmaker MaxLinear expects the picture to improve later this year as several major MSOs begin to accelerate the purchase and deployment of gateways outfitted with DOCSIS 3.1, the emerging multi-gigabit platform for HFC networks.

“We expect major cable operators to ramp shipments of DOCSIS 3.1 data gateways in the second half of 2016,” MaxLinear CEO Kishore Seendripu said Monday on the company’s Q4 earnings call.

MaxLinear, which demoed a D3.1 platform with Intel at last month’s CES, believes “this upgrade cycle will generate solid revenue growth over the next several years.”

MaxLinear and Intel will be fighting for share as operators start to march on DOCSIS 3.1. According to sources, the first batch of DOCSIS 3.1 modems recently certified by CableLabs were powered by silicon from rival Broadcom.

“I think our cable data business is pretty healthy,” Seendripu said, noting that the company is still seeing growth with DOCSIS 3.0 modems that can bond 24 or 32 downstream channels amid the anticipated run-up to D3.1. “We did not see the growth we had expected…in the past quarter, but we have good strong backlog in Q1, so we feel pretty good.”

As for D3.1, “there is a very good chance, in the second half, of DOCSIS 3.1 to ramp,” he added, noting that MaxLinear is “very well positioned” in that area with a major, but yet unnamed, MSO in North America.

Among U.S.-based operators, Comcast is already being aggressive, having named five markets where it plans to initially rollout D3.1 during 2016.

On the financial front, MaxLinear posted a Q4 net loss of $8.5 million (14 cents per share), on revenues of $98.9 million, up 4% from the year-ago quarter. The loss included $21.6 million in intangible asset impairment charges and $2.3 million in restructuring charges.

Operator revenues grew 10% in Q4, versus the Q3 2015, and accounted for 76% of total revenue in the period, MaxLinear said.

Full year 2015 revenues increased 126%, thanks in part to its acquisition of Entropic, a maker of Multimedia over Coax Alliance technology, last April.

Seendripu said MaxLinear had “particularly strong” MoCA shipments into both satellite and cable platforms in Q4. Last month, it introduced a third-generation MoCA 2.0 system (the MxL3705) that supports 1.2 Gbps of aggregate MAC throughput for up to 16 “nodes” on the home network. MaxLinear is expected to be in the mix when MoCA moves ahead on next-gen 3.0 platform that will target in-home data networking capacities of 2.5 Gbps. 

Seendripu also offered an update on MaxLinear’s legacy SoC products, noting that the company is seeing “softness” in demand for HD Digital Terminal Adapters, which are simple one-way digital-to-analog boxes that MSOs are using for their digital transitions. However, he said current backlog levels point to sequential revenue growth in that area in Q1 2016.

Primary revenues from HD DTAs are coming way of Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications.