P-Cube Controller Makes Its U.S. Return

P-Cube Inc. is introducing a new service-control system that will allow cable MSOs to provide tiers of voice and data services at different prices.

The control system unit would sit behind an operator’s cable-modem termination system and allow MSOs to throttle bandwidth based on service applications.

It’s P-Cube’s return to the U.S. market. Over the past year and a half, Liberty Media Corp. has been working to roll out its technology with Liberty Media Corp. affiliate J-COM Broadband in Japan and with Telenor in Europe.

“We walked away from the U.S. cable market in late 2002,” said P-Cube vice president of marketing Milind Gadekar. At that time, Gadekar said, several major MSOs were in the process of switching their high-speed data platforms from Excite@Home Corp.’s backbone to their own networks. They also had yet to feel the bandwidth-sapping pain of peer-to-peer applications.

“Service management wasn’t a priority,” he said.

That’s changed over the past year, he said, and P-Cube, which introduced its new SE2000 and Engage 2.1 IP service control technology last week, is now in trials with three U.S. cable operators.

The SE2000 service control unit controls the IP traffic that flows in and out of the CMTS.

It acts as an intermediary with the public-switched network, an enterprise network or a third-party managed network, Gadekar said. “What’s required is an intelligent overlay” that will allow operators to offer tiered data services, for instance.

“High-usage customers are controlled or billed,” he said.

The service-control unit allows for service differentiation, branded premium services and optimized network utilization.

Gadekar said the unit includes deep packet inspection, application recognition and dynamic policy control. The unit can handle 50,000 subscribers per box.

The unit can be configured with up to four Gigabit Ethernet interfaces and 4 OC-12 (optical carrier level 12) interfaces, he said. It includes redundancy and failover capability.

“To be able to meter and bill, it has to be 100% reliable,” Gadekar said.

The smart software in the service control unit can help operators and customers handle Internet viruses, for instance.

“We can identify where a worm is coming from and alert the operator and the customer,” he said. “We can direct them to a Web site and tell them how to get the problem fixed.”

Gadekar said European operators are looking at several tiered service models, based on the technology.

Broadband access could be broken down to a basic or family package, with higher levels of throughout for advanced homes or businesses.