Arcwave Upgrades Wireless Cable Offering

By Jeff Goldman

September 24, 2004

The DOCSIS 2.0 specification will make it easier for cable modem providers to bring service to customers -- without the cable.

Arcwave, which develops wireless solutions for cable operators, announced this week that it's upgrading its technology to support DOCSIS 2.0 (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification). The company's ARCXtend product is a wireless cable plant extension solution that allows cable operators to provide service to customers they couldn't otherwise reach.

Chris Martin, the company's vice president of marketing, says that because the residential market is already well covered by the existing cable plant, most of the users who need that kind of wireless access are business customers—and they are also the users who are most likely to need the higher bandwidth capabilities (and support for services like VoIP) of DOCSIS 2.0.

Arcwave's wireless technology, Martin says, makes it much easier for cable operators to reach business customers. "If they have to get permits to break concrete, or they need permission from the pole owners to string the wires, that can take months—and it can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000, depending on the market they're in," he says. "So wireless is an ideal solution."

"The beauty of wireless DOCSIS is, everything's the same," Martin says. "The people at the customer service center, or the people provisioning modems, don't care whether it's over a wireless link or not." Martin says the distances to be covered by Arcwave's wireless products are rarely very significant. "Most of our applications are under a mile, and I would say even a higher majority are under 1,000 feet," he says. "They say 90 percent of all businesses are within a mile of the cable plant, so there's really no need to go very far."

The DOCSIS standard, Martin explains, began with DOCSIS 1.0, which didn't allow for much in the way of upstream bandwidth. It then progressed to DOCSIS 1.1, which added quality of service, and then to DOCSIS 2.0, which enables symmetric upstream and downstream bandwidth. "[Cable] plants, when they upgrade to 2.0, can support triple-play service [voice, video, and data]," Martin says.

While few providers are yet deploying DOCSIS 2.0 solutions, Martin says Arcwave felt it was necessary to get ahead of the curve. "We want to make sure that what we put in the field today can support services that the cable operators are migrating to in the future," he says. "So it was important for us to be right out in front on that capability."

With WiMax also coming soon, Martin says the company is looking at ways to integrate that technology into its offering in the future. "WiMax will be a little more forgiving on the installation, and will give a little bit better performance in terms of fade margin in urban environments," he says. "It'll just make life a little bit easier."

Ultimately, this week's announcement is just an incremental upgrade to Arcwave's offering, but Martin says part of the intention is simply to increase awareness of the technology. "I think a lot of people are interested in the triple play, the convergence of voice, video and data on the cable companies' networks," he says. "It's important to us to make sure that people are aware that we're right there, and we can support them."

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