Arris Answers Phone With Comcast, Adelphia Orders

Byline: anthony crupi

Just one week after Cable Television Laboratories certified a record 12 cable modems as meeting DOCSIS 1.1 standards, Arris jumped ahead of the pack and secured successive orders from Comcast and Adelphia Communications for its newly qualified Cadant C4 cable modem termination system.

A component of Arris’s CompleteVoice solution – a system that provides operators with a flexible suite of programs for planning, installing and supporting telephony for IP and circuit-switched networks – the C4 CMTS was one of the spoils of Arris’s recent Cadant acquisition. And with the one-two punch of landing Comcast and Adelphia, Arris looks to have taken first-mover advantage in the exponentially expanding telephony over IP (ToIP) field.

Comcast originally deployed the C4 CMTS in a voice over PacketCable field trial that began late last year in Detroit. The MSO will continue testing the system in the Motor City in order to gauge its suitability as a provider of primary-line residential voice services. Comcast is banking on Arris’s CompleteVoice solution for ToIP to provide the foundation for reducing the startup and operational woes often endemic to telephony services.

The physical design of the C4 CMTS unit should go a long way toward alleviating such familiar telephony headaches as dropped calls, audio distortion or loss and slow server response. The chassis-based, midplane design allows for the highest stream density in the business, supporting a maximum of 96 downstream and 384 upstream channels per three-box rack. (As cost is typically measured in downstreams, carriers are looking at a price tag of about $25,000 per downstream, a figure that includes eight upstreams as well.) And because the Arris unit is designed with active modules at the front of the chassis and physical cable interface cards that connect at the rear, modules can be removed easily, without recabling and any subsequent interruption of service. Or, as Arris product marketing director and wearer-of-many-hats Tim Doiron asserts, “You can have the front module out and be back online in under a minute.”

Keeping a system’s MTTR (mean time to repair) down is crucial for a telephony service, although the measure of its MTBF (mean time between failures) is more important. While Arris isn’t projecting an MTBF for the C4 CMTS, the spec sheet for the unit touts its carrier-class reliability at “five nines,” or 99.999% availability. By way of comparison, the relatively primitive Arris CMTS 1500 – a stand-alone pizza box that was the first modem to earn DOCSIS 1.0 certification – had an MTBF rating of more than 240,000 hours, which also translates to five nines.

Such quality concerns were paramount for Comcast SVP-new media development Steve Craddock, who listed the C4’s carrier-class redundancy as a key factor in the cable company’s selection of Arris. “It’s not OK to just reboot the modem when something goes down,” he says. The C4 is designed with no single point of failure, so it can rapidly detect, diagnose, isolate and recover from faults using redundant hardware and software components without service impact to the subscriber.

“That’s important when you’ve got someone trying to make a 911 call,” Craddock adds. “You really need that 1.1 QoS [quality of service] to ensure that everything works right.”

Also joining rival Comcast in C4 CMTS trials is Adelphia, which has purchased several Arris units for deployment in the Great Lakes region. The cable company had previously deployed seven C4 chassis and 80 C4 Cable Access Modules in its networks throughout New York state and Ohio.

While Comcast and Adelphia are touting their respective leverage of the C4 CMTS as a means toward providing optimum voice service, it’s a dead cert that both cable companies are looking down the road to the promised land of video-on-demand. Doiron agrees that VOD is “the next step,” although the subsequent deployment decisions operators will face should prove to be a bit of a puzzle. For the time being, Doiron is content to elucidate the leaps Arris has made in terms of convergence.

“We started this world with specific-purpose boxes – a CMTS for data delivery, separate video equipment at the head-ends, etc. Then voice and data converged over IP platforms as all the requirements for voice PSTN [public switched telephone networks] over an IP net fell into place. We have highly scalability, high reliability…this is truly architected as a next-generation unit.”

It’s only a matter of time, then, before video will begin streaming over IP. This future-forward ethos is echoed by Arris VP-marketing and communications Mike Horton, who says the jump from the CMTS 1500 to the C4 CMTS was a function of Arris’s need for growing room. “The 1500 is like an atomic clock; it just never quits ticking,” Horton says. “But those units were applicable for serving smaller areas. They are not scaled nor do they have the wire speed the C4 has…Cadant tech is here today.”

Besides the two large cable companies, two smaller telecoms, Alaska-based GCI and Sunflower Broadband, an MSO located in Lawrence, Kan., have deployed the C4 CMTS to deliver telephony services to their residential and business customers.

As for future orders, Horton is sanguine. “Comcast and Adelphia are the only two we can announce right now,” he says. “Stay tuned.”

COPYRIGHT 2002 Copyright by Media Central Inc., A PRIMEDIA Company. All rights reserved.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

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