• United States
Senior U.S. Correspondent

Cisco pushes for cable voice, video deployment

May 13, 20035 mins
BroadbandCablesCisco Systems

Cisco Monday launched a major push to equip cable operators for new services such as voice and video, announcing a flurry of products designed to help them deploy the new offerings easily and at low cost.

Also among the benefits of what Cisco introduced Monday, cable operators will be able to crack down on heavy use of upstream bandwidth for peer-to-peer file-sharing or charge broadband customers extra for using it, Cisco executives said Monday.

As cable operators evolve from traditional one-way, analog TV service to broadband data network access, Cisco already is providing data-over-cable equipment and software. Now the San Jose networking giant is moving aggressively to provide the infrastructure for voice and video services that can bring cable operators additional revenue, said Paul Bosco, vice president of broadband and cable industry development at Cisco.

To help support the new services, Cisco rolled out a version of its Broadband Processing Engine (BPE) for the UBR7246VXR, a cable modem termination system (CMTS) that now can support 12,000 cable modems per chassis. A higher capacity version of the BPE was introduced in December for the UBR10012, a larger CMTS that can support 80,000 modems per chassis for densely populated urban areas. The BPEs can be used to upgrade thousands of Cisco CMTSes already in use, according to Cisco.

The BPE can offload processing tasks from the central processor of a CMTS to the interface cards, boosting the platform’s performance. It also can perform advanced functions such as deep packet inspection, subscriber management and application recognition.

These advanced features can help operators solve the problem of peer-to-peer file-sharing applications taking up too much upstream bandwidth. It’s common for a few peer-to-peer users to take up most of the upstream bandwidth, which is typically used mostly for Web-page requests, according to Enzo Signore, senior director of marketing for the cable and midrange routing group at Cisco.

Used along with new software features being introduced in Cisco’s Internetwork Operating System (IOS), the BPE will let cable operators identify which of 85 types of applications are being used by a customer and how much bandwidth that application is consuming. If it found a bandwidth hog, the operator could warn the customer, bump the customer up to a higher level of service that costs more or cut back on the amount of bandwidth available to the application, Bosco said. In addition to the 85 predefined application types, operators will be able to code their own application descriptions.

The same tools could be used to allocate more capacity specifically for video or voice traffic, which is more sensitive to delays than is typical data traffic, Bosco said.

The BPE for the UBR7246VXR is due to ship in the third quarter, priced starting at $50,000. The additional IOS features also will ship in the third quarter, according to Cisco. Pricing for them was not immediately available.

For voice-over-cable services, Cisco introduced provisioning services and a bundle of its own and third-party products, all designed to help operators set up these services. Up to now, cable companies that wanted to offer voice services typically were on their own to integrate products from a number of different vendors, Bosco said.

“The typical cable operator is pretty lean in terms of his back-office integration resources,” Bosco said.

To help cable operators roll out video-on-demand services to broadband customers, Cisco introduced software and optical network components that can integrate a video delivery system more tightly with a typical Ethernet data network.

Video on demand typically is delivered over one-way networks that require some manual coding for setup, said Paul Sanchirico, senior director of Cisco’s video networking business unit. Most of the traffic in video-on-demand services flows downstream to the end user, but commands need to come upstream to control it. The new products from Cisco use some unidirectional interfaces for cost savings but can work closely with the rest of the network without special coding, he said. They let operators continue to use dense wave-division multiplexing (DWDM) on an optical network to deliver the traffic.

The company introduced DWDM optical components that can be plugged directly into Cisco Catalyst series switches. These eliminate the need for a transponder platform, a separate device. A version of the optical component that can both send and receive data will cost $6,995. A receive-only version will cost $995.

Cisco also announced the ONS 15216 FlexLayer optical filter platform. An optical filter can combine many wavelengths of light on a single fiber or split them apart. This is Cisco’s first modular filter with one-way interface modules, which generally are less expensive than two-way modules, Sanchirico said. An ONS 15216 FlexLayer platform can be made bidirectional by equipping it with some unidirectional interfaces going in and some going out. It gives cable operators flexibility in adding interfaces at a low price, Sanchirico said.

All the new video offerings will be available in the third calendar quarter of this year and are being tested in conjunction with makers of video servers and of quadrature amplitude modulation systems that the video networks could connect.