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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.

Broadband CPE Sales Up and Going Higher

Infonetics has a new report out this week showing ten percent revenue growth in broadband CPE in the fourth quarter of last year compared to Q3. While revenue was still down in 2009 compared to 2008, Infonetics has an interesting forecast for DOCSIS 3.0 gear over the next five years. Infonetics projects revenue from DOCSIS 3.0 CPE to approach three billion dollars worldwide by 2014. That should have a significant impact on overall CPE numbers. Viva la broadband.

From Infonetics analyst Jeff Heynan:

Now that many major cable operators worldwide are aggressively putting into place the infrastructure to support wideband and DOCSIS 3.0 services, we are now seeing more consistent quarterly shipments of wideband customer-premise equipment. It started with modems earlier in 2009 and now includes both gateways and embedded multimedia terminal adapters (EMTAs). Though the numbers remain small relative to standard cable CPE, we expect wideband cable devices to ramp up quickly in North America, EMEA, and Asia Pacific, nearing $3 billion worldwide by 2014.

Maybe “new features that provide customers with better visibility and service customization”

DOCSIS 3.0: Availability High, Adoption Low

Here’s an interesting take from Multichannel News on DOCSIS 3.0 growth. According to the pub’s research division, cable operators are now offering DOCSIS 3.0-enabled service to “more than 52 million U.S. consumers and businesses.” And yet it doesn’t appear that adoption rates are very high. Multichannel News references Time  Warner Cable as an example, stating that TWC signed up just 2,000 D3 subscribers in New York City during the first quarter of service availability.

There are two points of interest in the Multichannel News findings. First, as analyst Mike Paxton explains, cable companies are building out infrastructure to support higher Internet speeds than most people need at this point. That puts them in a stronger position than some of their competitors and lets the cable operators support continued service growth.

Second, DOCSIS 3.0 offers advantages beyond just higher peak downstream speeds. While cable operators may not have much of an audience yet for premium 50-Mbps tiers, they do have an interest in lowering the cost of providing bandwidth to all of their subscribers. And as Motorola’s Brian O’Neill explained a couple weeks ago, Motorola’s D3 hardware helps them do just that.

Bottom line: There aren’t a lot of subscribers taking advantage of DOCSIS 3.0 speeds yet, but cable operators are building for the future and, in some cases, lowering operating costs by migrating to the latest DOCSIS standard now.

Next Up in the Upstream Marketing Wars

Verizon has launched a new Internet service tier with upstream speeds of 35 Mbps. Although it’s only available in a bundle with other services, the upstream speed on Verizon’s FTTH network dwarfs virtually anything else available in North America. The upstream marketing wars are heating up.

Consumers still aren’t hooked on upstream speeds the way they are on downstream, but it’s only a matter of time until that changes. Not only are HD video cameras multiplying, but expectations for sharing multimedia content are evolving and will continue to evolve. Home networking is on the rise, mobile broadband is increasingly popular, and cloud services are popping up everywhere. All of those factors mean that consumers expect to be able to move their digital stuff around and access it from anywhere. And that requires both downstream and upstream bandwidth.

Even as Verizon is touting higher upstream speeds now, cable operators have their own upstream offensive in the works. Back in October, Motorola announced a new upstream card for cablecos using the BSR 64000 CMTS. The RX48 card packs 48 upstream ports in the space of the 8 upstream ports available today, and when you bond those newly-available upstream channels together, upstream Internet speeds skyrocket. In addition, Motorola has been working with several operators to make use of a DOCSIS 2.0 upstream technology. S-CDMA, which is part of the DOCSIS 2.0 spec, can be used to clean up low-spectrum frequencies and increase upstream capacity by around 50%.

DOCSIS 3.0 Hitting Rural Markets

Motorola announced a new deal yesterday with rural cableco Armstrong to provide DOCSIS 3.0 technology across the operator’s entire footprint, and it looks like the move is part of a larger trend. Bernie Arnason over at Telecompetitor lists several MSOs who have gone the D3 route in rural markets including Armstrong, Bend Broadband, Mediacom, Midcontinent, Suddenlink, and Sunflower Broadband. But here’s the question: are these cablecos moving to DOCSIS 3.0 strictly to get higher speeds? Arnason notes that, “It’s kind of human nature to choose bigger and faster when it’s available, regardless of whether you actually need it.” In this case, however, speed isn’t the only advantage.

In a briefing yesterday with industry veteran Jim Barthold (subscription required for Pike and Fischer report), Motorola’s Brian O’Neill explained the “dirty little secret” of DOCSIS 3.0. Motorola can actually help operators migrate to D3 with just a software upgrade, but by adding in specific D3 hardware – as Armstrong is doing with Motorola’s Tx32 decoupled downstream module – the advantages go beyond channel bonding and higher peak speeds. The Tx32 hardware significantly increases network efficiency, making it cheaper (60%-per-port savings) to provide more bandwidth to all customers. Armstrong, in fact, isn’t planning to implement channel bonding for all of its subscribers right away, but the cable operator will still be able to deliver an extra 64 QAM channels (bonded or not) out of its existing chassis equipment.

Bottom line: rural operators have multiple reasons to move to DOCSIS 3.0, and several are making the upgrade as a result.

Favorite 2009 Wrap-Ups

No doubt we’ll see a flood of year-end and decade-end stories through the rest of this week, but already I have three wrap-up stories that top my list. Covering TV and technology, here are excerpts from three articles by Todd Spangler of Multichannel News, John Merli writing for TV Technology, and Robert Bianco of USA Today.

Top Cable Tech Trends of 2009, Todd Spangler

Out with the analog: Cable operators this year advanced their digital agendas to make room for more DOCSIS 3.0 and HD.

MSOs also pushed ahead on the wireless front, and it was the year interactive TV (finally) began to bloom for cable, even though Canoe’s initial crack at advanced advertising was a bust. Looking to the future, operators pondered the potential of IPTV, and at the tail end of 2009 we saw the first glimpses TV Everywhere–cable’s bid to extend the video-subscription model to the Internet.

A Landmark Year for Broadcast, John Merli

…David Donovan, president of the Association for Maximum Service Television, calls June 12, 2009 “the most significant date in the history of over-the-air television.” And the president of the Advanced Television Systems Committee, Mark Richer, said “now the real fun starts. No one should underestimate the power of a wireless one-to-many application distribution system. That system is ‘broadcasting…’”

The Decade in Television: Cable, the  Internet Become Players, Robert Bianc0

For TV, it was a decade of Lost and found.

At the broadcast networks, which saw their overall numbers drop by around 8 million viewers, it was 10 years of ratings decline. Yet if those viewers were lost to broadcast, they were found by cable — and what those viewers found was an ever-expanding range of choice.

But don’t cry for broadcast yet. They may be smaller fish, but they’re still by far the biggest in the electronic pond.

DOCSIS 3.0 Certifications to Wrap Up 2009

CableLabs and EuroCableLabs have now announced the results of their final certifications waves for 2009: the US DOCSIS Cert Wave 71, and the European EuroDOCSIS Cert Wave 37. Motorola had several cable modems and gateways certified, including:

  • SVG2501: DOCSIS 2.0, PacketCable 1.5
  • SBG6580: DOCSIS 3.0
  • SB6180E: Euro-DOCSIS 3.0
  • SBG6580E: Euro-DOCSIS 3.0
  • SBV6180E: Euro-DOCSIS 3.0, Euro-PacketCable 1.5

The new certifications come in the context of massive DOCSIS 3.0 deployments over the last 18 months. As of this past spring, Motorola had an estimated 70% of the D3 market share for customer premise equipment. Deployments are global. Most recently Motorola D3 modems showed up in the Cox Las Vegas system.