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CableLabs details Docsis roadmap, hints at process changes

Posted: 24 May 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:media access control? docsis 2.0? cable modem? cablelabs?

The cable modem sector will evolve the Docsis 2.0 specification this year through software and media access control (MAC) layer changes and has started to prep for the evolution Docsis 3.0, according to CableLabs at a media briefing Tuesday, May 18, 2004 here. At the same time, CableLabs hinted that the sector is evaluating new certification options to address the increasing demand for embedded Docsis capabilities and the shift toward chipset houses handling system design.

While DSL continues to gain momentum, especially in the Asian markets, the cable modem sector is still experiencing healthy growth. In fact, the cable modem sector shipped 30 million Docsis modems worldwide as of the third quarter of 2003, according to Ralph Brown, senior VP of broadband access at CableLabs. "We have a 63 percent share of the broadband market," Brown added.

To keep this momentum going, CableLabs is looking to make software revisions to its Docsis 2.0 specification that will help improve performance in a Docsis network. Specifically, CableLabs is looking to add specifications that will improve network monitoring and allow cable multiple service operators (MSOs) to deliver T1 replacement services.

CableLabs is also planning revisions that will bring more efficiency to the way Docsis systems handle packet processing, Brown said. Specifically, Brown said the standards body is looking for techniques that will accelerate the TCP/IP acknowledgement process by reducing queue backlogs. CableLabs will also look to deliver dynamic packet header suppression capabilities at the MAC layer. "Dynamic packet header suppression will add incremental capacity to Docsis 2.0 networks," Brown said.

To compliment the changes being done on Docsis 2.0, CableLabs is also starting to provide initial details on the performance capabilities provided at the 3.0 level. During the briefing, CableLabs said it expects Docsis 3.0 systems to deliver 200Mbps downstream capabilities as well as 100Mbps upstream capabilities. The proposed bandwidth boost, Brown said, will allow cable operators to support entertainment services over Docsis links.

The software changes to Docsis 2.0 are currently under development and are expected to hit the market by the end of the year, Brown said. Work on the Docsis 3.0 specification is in an early stage, Brown added.

Certification Changes

While upgrades to the Docsis specs took center stage at the media briefing, an interesting issue popped up on the Docsis certification process. Traditionally, CableLabs has only performed certifications at the system level. But, with more of the system-level design process shifting toward chipset developers and consumer electronics companies looking to embed Docsis in more locations, CableLabs hinted that the certification process could shift to the chip level.

Comcast senior VP Tom Cullen said that as Docsis capabilities get embedded that CableLabs could get flooded with certification requests. Thus, to avoid this flood, Cullen said that CableLabs will have to move the certification process from the system level to the chip level.

Adding to Cullen's comments, Brown said that with system design moving toward chip vendors that it makes sense to re-evaluate the certification process. However, Brown stopped short in saying that CableLabs will definitely shift the certification process toward the chipset level.

One of the big holdups in changing the certification process could lie at the software level. Brown said that to shift certification CableLabs needs to getter a better understanding of the software developed by chipset vendors.

"We are looking at the certification process and will make modifications in 2004," Brown said.

- Robert Keenan

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