Vendors Take Challenge Of DOCSIS 1.1 Testing

With sharpened No. 2 pencils in hand, a small cadre of cable-equipment vendors stands ready to face the biggest test to date. Cable Television Laboratories Inc. said four cable-modem manufacturers and four cable-modem termination system vendors have submitted products for the first Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) 1.1 certification and qualification wave, which began Monday, Oct. 30.

Certification wave 16 is expected to conclude Dec. 8, with results set for sometime around Dec. 14.

DOCSIS 1.1 enables quality-of-service and ensures that voice and data calls can be run simultaneously over the same channel. It also serves as the underpinning for PacketCable, a multimedia architecture cable operators will need to provide voice-over-Internet-protocol services and more advanced applications such as virtual private networks and interactive gaming.

Cisco Systems Inc., Terayon Communication Systems Inc. and Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. each supplied one cable modem for 1.1 testing. Future Networks Inc., meanwhile, submitted two separate models.

On the CMTS front, ADC Telecommunications Inc.-which recently acquired Broadband Access Systems Inc.-Cadant Inc., Cisco and RiverDelta Networks Inc. have all submitted termination gear.

Due to the complexities involved in testing equipment for the more advanced DOCSIS 1.1 specification, CableLabs initially said it would make certification wave 16 a 1.1-only affair. After vendors complained, CableLabs' final decision was to test both 1.1 and 1.0 products simultaneously.

CableLabs senior vice president of communications Mike Schwartz said the organization received more than 25 cable modems and two CMTS products for 1.0 testing during wave 16.

From here on out, future CableLabs certification waves will include testing for both DOCSIS 1.0 and 1.1, said Rouzbeh Yassini, a senior executive consultant to CableLabs and a longtime developer of DOCSIS specifications. Certification wave 17 is expected to begin Jan. 22, 2001.

"CableLabs has the infrastructure to handle both [1.0 and 1.1 products] going forward," Yassini said. "It's a collective effort and we will conduct testing to run them parallel."

CableLabs will also continue to test several varieties of cable modems that house universal serial bus and Ethernet capabilities, Yassini noted.

Yassini is expected to step up his role in the DOCSIS process. That should be welcome news at CableLabs, which had to weather the departure of David Bukovinksky, who left to take a vice president of broadband services and technology post with satellite broadband upstart WildBlue Communications (formerly iSKY). He joined CEO Thomas Moore, another former CableLabs employee and DOCSIS pioneer.

YAS Corp., Yassini's technology and consulting business, has also been hired to assist CableLabs in the DOCSIS-certification process. Yassini confirmed that he resigned his board seat at Broadband Access Systems Inc. following the CMTS vendor's merger with ADC.

Despite a relatively low turnout by cable modem vendors for the first wave involving 1.1 products, the number of CMTSs submitted is a strong sign for the future of 1.1, Kinetic Strategies Inc. president and broadband analyst Michael Harris said.

"The number of modem vendors was small, but it was good to see a good crop of CMTS vendors," he said. "The CMTS is more important at this point."

RiverDelta Networks, which submitted its carrier-class "Broadband Services Router-64000" chassis for 1.0 qualification, opted to put its pizza box-sized "BSR-1000" edge router up to the 1.1 test. The BSR-1000 won DOCSIS 1.0- qualification earlier this fall.

RiverDelta chief technical officer Gerry White said the BSR-1000 is a "simpler" product that includes a blade from the 64000. He said the smaller device was submitted for 1.1 testing ahead of the more complex BSR-64000 chassis to help the company wring out any potential problems with 1.1.

"The software is identical for both products," White said. "We expect to put the 64000 in with the next 1.1 wave."

Harris called RiverDelta's move a smart strategy. "It's a more managed approach."

While the first class of CMTSs to enter 1.1 testing appear close to what will eventually be deployed within cable headends, the cable-modem side is more of a mixed bag, consisting of gear that does not yet exist in product form.

For example, FutureNetworks submitted two products based on Texas Instruments Inc. silicon: the 110D and 110E. Company spokeswoman Krissy Taylor said the 110D model likely won't be made into a commercial product, while the 110E is slated for eventual commercial production.

The 110C model has already earned 1.0 certification, and won't be run through 1.1 certification testing unless failure to obtain the more advanced seal of approval "became a barrier for us to sell it," Taylor said.

Terayon's and Cisco's respective 1.1 cable modem entrants have yet to be formally announced. Toshiba could not be reached for comment.

Motorola Broadband Communications Sector, one of the largest cable equipment players, plans to submit its cable modems and headend gear for the January wave, said Don Hopp, vice president of engineering for Motorola Broadband's IP Network Systems division.

"Our target is the next cert wave," Hopp said. "We have been moving along rapidly with 1.1 developments and have participated in most of the dry run testing for 1.1 (products).

"We strongly support the move to 1.1, but the spec and testing methodology are still evolving."

Moving from 1.0 to 1.1 "is not a trivial upgrade," Hopp added.

While some vendors appear to be making a statement by entering the 1.1 fray and are perhaps just testing the complicated waters of the 1.1 certification process, don't expect many of those products to get the green light from CableLabs right away, Harris said.

"If history is a guide, it required seven certification waves before the first 1.0 [equipment] passed," he said. "DOCSIS 1.1 is far more complex than 1.0."

Harris said the first set of equipment might not get the 1.1 green light from CableLabs until the second quarter of 2001. "There will be some growing pains," he said.

To alleviate some of that pain, a new testing procedure is being developed for DOCSIS 1.1. The goal is to build an automated process that essentially turns minutes into seconds.

Already, CableLabs and a legion of equipment vendors made up of 12 teams, each managing 12 separate projects, are working on such a platform. It would address equipment layers such as media access control and PHY.

"We enabled the vendor community to work create an environment to reach automation," Yassini said, noting that CableLabs is providing the guidelines. "We're approaching it in a way to make sure they have all of the information we have."

Step Right Up/The following vendors submitted products for CableLabs' first certification and qualification round of DOCSIS 1.1 testing: