CableLabs Certifies the First Consumer Cable Modems

Competition to dominate the market in providing high-speed data connections to the home keeps heating up. In an effort to make cable modems broadly available, the cable industry has recognized the need for the modems to use a common interface. Thus was born the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) process. Just as computer owners today know they can buy a modem that will work on any phone line, cable-industry leaders want their subscribers to be able to buy a "CableLabs Certified" modem at a retail outlet and know it will work with any cable system that uses the DOCSIS platform.

With three years of development, including input from CableLabs member companies and vendors, the DOCSIS spec became an international standard of the International Telecommunications Union. Then CableLabs invited vendors to bring their equipment to its facilities to test the equipment's interoperability with other vendors' DOCSIS modems. CableLabs says it has developed a series of tests to measure compliance with the standard and so ensure product compatibility.

CableLabs announced last week that it has certified high-speed cable modems from Thomson Consumer Electronics and Toshiba, marking the first time that retail-ready products have passed CableLabs' interoperability criteria for high-speed data/Internet access. Additional suppliers' modems should be available at retail later this year as they become certified in subsequent testing. In addition to buying cable modems at retail, consumers can obtain cable modems, including certified modems, from cable operators.

The retail modems will be identified by a "CableLabs Certified" seal intended to inform consumers and cable operators that a modem complies with DOCSIS. It also states that the device will work on multiple headends (the equipment cable companies use to transmit programs) soon to be deployed in a substantial number of systems in the US and Canada.

"These new CableLabs-certified cable modems will allow consumers to choose cable modems from a wide variety of suppliers," says Chuck Lillis, chairman and CEO of MediaOne Group and a member of the CableLabs Executive Committee. "And they'll be able to take those modems with them if they move. As we've seen with so many other consumer electronics, including calculators and VCRs, as competition increases, features become more robust and prices fall. This is a great move for consumers and the industry as a whole."

According to Leo J. Hindery, Jr., president of TCI and a member of the CableLabs Executive Committee, "The introduction of certified modems is an important step toward offering customers a retail choice for cable modems. We are building a competitive and vigorous suite of new consumer services through ever-advancing technologies, and this interoperable platform is one of the first key components."

Cable modems provide high-speed Internet and data access, and---unlike telephone modems---they are always connected and thus do not require re-dialing to a service provider.

"Certified cable modems in the retail environment will help drive the deployment of broadband services as more consumers are exposed to the power and convenience of cable Internet services," says Tom Jermoluk, chairman and CEO of @Home Network. "We are excited about the robust capabilities provided by DOCSIS modems and the wide variety of vendors, including consumer-electronics companies, who are new to the cable-television space."