Strike up the band for cable ops—now

Debuting at the Western Cable Show, Terayon's BandLeader broadband telephony delivery platform promises to help remove the either/or decision of cable operators looking to offer carrier-class voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). The system will allow the company to offer VoIP without having to replace its carrier-class (CC) backbone infrastructure.

Says Golan Manor, Terayon vice president, technical marketing, broadband voice, "Cable operators have been deliberating between CC and VoIP because they don't know how long it will take for VoIP to mature. With this system, they can decide when and if they want to switch over to VoIP."

Much has been made of the role that IP technology will play in cable's future, but it's still seen in some camps as being too immature a technology for deployment. The potential market for cable operators offering phone service is huge, with analyst firms such as Forrester Research predicting that 25% of U.S. cable subscribers will have cable phone service by 2005.

The issue facing cable operators is how to make that service possible. "[BandLeader] clearly offers migration from Class 5 switching to the soft-switch architecture," says Jim Lawrence, analyst with Pittsburgh-based Stratecast Partners, a research firm specializing in telephony service. "And with respect to developing a coherent overall voice architecture, [Terayon has] a more complete story than anyone else in the space at the moment."

The idea behind Terayon's Bandleader is to place a VoIP Access Gateway interface (serving as many as 2,000 simultaneous calls) and a media terminal (with two to four phone lines per terminal) between the circuit voice backbone and the consumer. Manor says all services delivered in the CC world will be delivered transparently to subscribers, allowing the cable operator to leverage current billing and other systems.

The circuit- and packet-switch-compatible system will be available in first quarter 2001, according to Manor. Pricing of the Gateway AG3000 interface, he says, will range from $100,000 to $500,000 depending on the number of calls the system can handle. Each of the media-terminal adapters will cost $300 and will replace the cable modem in the customer's home or business.

Manor also notes that that competitive local phone-exchange carriers (CLECs) will be able to sign deals with the cable operator to offer their service through the cable system.