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New Motorola Gateway at Best Buy

The Motorola SBG6580 snagged DOCSIS 3.0 certification last December, and a Mark of Excellence award in March. It’s also been a topic on user forums since January of this year. Now the cable modem gateway is available in retail, exclusively from Best Buy.

If you have cable Internet service, you have a choice of either leasing a modem from your cable company, or buying one outright from the store. The SBG6580 comes with several premium features including DOCSIS 3.0 compatibility (works with higher-speed D3 services), an 802.11N wireless access point, and a Gigabit Ethernet 4-port switch with an advanced firewall. The gateway, also known as the SURFboard eXtreme Wireless Cable Modem, also offers plug-and-play installation with Wi-Fi Pairing button for easy set-up. MSRP is $149.99.

Cable Commercial Services a Reality?

As part of a media briefing this afternoon on cable commercial services, one of the Motorola execs on the line unearthed a white paper on using DOCSIS 3.0 for the enterprise from 2009. The stats quoted are now a year out of date, but I still think they’re worth sharing. First of all, SNL Kagan estimated that commercial services for MSOs in the US generated $3 billion in 2008. That doesn’t sound terribly impressive, except that Kagan also projected that number would rise to nearly $10 billion in 2012. Moreover, Motorola was able to corroborate Kagan’s general analysis, reflecting that MSOs in 2009 appeared to be experiencing upward of 20% annual revenue growth from the provision of high-speed data services to business customers.

Cable has long talked about the potential for growth in commercial services, but reality has lagged behind the industry’s vision. That may finally be changing now that residential broadband speeds are approaching 50 and 100 Mbps in some areas thanks to DOCSIS 3.0.

Interestingly, commercial services represent a particularly valuable niche for operators because peak usage times in the workplace directly counter peak usage times for subscribers at home. Nice way to get more revenue from existing infrastructure.

The Greatest, Greenest CMTS

Broadband infrastructure requires a lot of energy, but exactly how much depends on the equipment you use. Motorola has collected publicly available data on a few of the top Cable Modem Termination Systems (CMTSs) on the market and determined energy usage per data stream. Specifically, the green line on the chart below indicates the number of DOCSIS 3.0 streams that can be powered the by a single Watt of energy. The Motorola BSR 64000 far outpaces the competition with regards to streams powered per Watt. Meanwhile, the blue and red bars on the chart indicate the number of downstream and upstream channels that can fit in a single CMTS chassis. More channels per chassis mean fewer chassis overall.

I-CMTS Power Performance Rating

Source:  Motorola using publicly available data motorola.com, arris.com and cisco.com – Click to enlarge

Of course the other benefit to greater stream density and efficiency is lower costs. The chart below illustrates the costs of powering and cooling a CMTS per DOCSIS 3.0 stream. Once again, Motorola comes out ahead, lowering costs by as much as 50% per stream.

Annual I-CMTS Energy Costs

Source:  Motorola using publicly available data motorola.com, arris.com and cisco.com – Click to enlarge

Source:  Motorola using publicly available data motorola.com, arris.com and cisco.com – Click to enlarge

How Do You Measure Speed?

There’s an interesting debate going on between the FCC and the NCTA about measuring broadband speeds and ISP performance. The FCC is using comScore to calculate average data rates for broadband consumers. (See Ars Technica coverage) The NCTA is arguing that the FCC’s measurement approach is flawed.

While cable (and telecom) companies are naturally going to come out against any measurement that shows less-than-optimal delivery speeds, the NCTA has some very valid complaints. For one thing, in measuring user speeds, there is no accounting for errors outside ISP control. The NCTA references a few broad examples of this, but I can give a very specific one. When Motorola first started deploying DOCSIS 3.0 gear (two years ago!), there were some odd hiccups with Windows PCs. It turns out that a default configuration of Windows (and this may not be true with Windows 7) limits subscribers to 23 or 24 Mbps, far below some promised DOCSIS 3.0 speeds. Using the comScore measurement, consumers with a 50-Mbps service tier, who are also stuck in the Windows default configuration, would be recorded as getting about half their promised speed – through no fault of the service provider.

In short, if you’re going to measure real-world speeds, you also need some real-world caveats. ComScore measurements do not account for the hardware and software in use by consumers. Your mileage may vary.

Mark of Excellence Award for Motorola D3 Gateway

The Mark of Excellence awards are out again from the Consumer Electronics Association, and this year Motorola’s nabbed one for the Motorola SBG6580 SURFboard eXtreme Wireless Cable Modem. The SBG6580 was announced back in October and wrapped up DOCSIS 3.0 certification last December. It includes a D3 modem, 802.11n access point, four Ethernet ports, and firewall capabilities. The gateway picked up Gold in the CEA’s Structured Wiring category.