Motorola, Nortel extend cable systems

Motorola and Nortel Networks presented solutions last week for taking cable beyond television, enabling offerings such as voice over IP (VOIP).

Industry observers viewed the moves as gradually bringing multiservice cable into reality.

VOIP using cable is part of Motorola's announcement of an IP telephony architecture. This multimedia platform will allow for multiple networks -- including wired, wireless, satellite, paging, and cable -- to communicate with each other over IP, and enable users to make IP telephony calls over any of the multiple networks.

Using technologies from Motorola's Internet and networking group and from NetSpeak, Motorola is offering a VOIP/cable modem one-box solution that includes components from Motorola's Vanguard VOIP gateway and Motorola's Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 1.0 cable modem. The solution, called Multimedia Terminal Adapter (MTA-1), will run on a hybrid fibre coaxial cable network and allow a user to attach a conventional phone to the adapter using a phone jack. The MTA-1 will be available in mid-1999. Pricing is not yet available.

Meanwhile, Nortel Networks announced Unified Networks for Cable Systems, a broadband networking solution that will allow cable TV operators to offer voice, video, and IP data to their customers in an integrated package.

Nortel officials said that the integrated transport network structure will be broken down into four elements: optical networks, broadband cable access, IP switched networks, and integrated network management.

Analysts said they were encouraged by Nortel's and Motorola's incremental advancements in cable systems technology.

"[The] bottom line is cable has more capacity than traditional lines," said Hilary Mine, an analyst at Probe Research. "Anything you can do over copper, you can do over fibre coax."

"What we're seeing on the cable modem side is the same as on the DSL [Digital Subscriber Line] side, this is more integration of higher-level functionalities," said Daniel Briere, president of TeleChoice.

But Mine also pointed out there are business issues such as whether people will trust a cable company as much as a phone company.

"An installer will have to go out and install a cable box with other stuff with it, and when you have a technician that knows what they're doing, it's great, but there's probably a 1 per cent probability of that," Mine said.

Optical networks: OC-192 and OC-48 Synchronous Optical Network (SONet) elements for high-capacity transport of video, IP data, and telephony services.

Broadband cable access: Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification-capable cable modem and Nortel Networks' CMTS1000 cable modem termination system.

IP switched network: IP data traffic routed by Nortel Networks' Accelar routing switch and interWAN solution over the SONet.

Integrated network management: Manages multivendor and multitechnology networks.

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