CableLabs Calls for Business-Size Terminal Adapters

A multiline cable VOIP adapter, built to uniform specs, would let Cox, Comcast, Cablevision and other cable companies compete for business telephony accounts the way they do for consumer subscribers.

CableLabs, a nonprofit research and interoperability testing lab for cable operators based in Louisville, Colo., called on VOIP (voice over IP) vendors this week to submit designs for customer-premise, multiline cable access equipment for small businesses. Companies that wish to submit design specs for an ML-MTA (multiline, multimedia terminal adapter) have until August 12 to do so.

Together with its cable operator members, CableLabs, officially Cable Television Laboratories Inc., will review the specifications and come up with feedback. Vendors will be asked to have testable equipment by November.

At that time, CableLabs will head up specification-conformance testing for its member companies, which include Cox Communications Inc., Comcast Corp. and Cablevision Systems Corp., as well as smaller MSOs (multiple system operators).

While PacketCable-certified cable modems that serve voice and video over broadband are now common among residential subscribers, no terminal adapter yet exists to serve the growing number of eight-to-12-line businesses with cable broadband connectivity. These represent a profitable market in replacing the partial T-1s and DSL broadband provisioned by regional telcos, according to Jerry Bennington, a consultant for CableLabs.

"This RFP [request for proposal] is driven by the emergence of multiple-dwelling and small-office sales in the cable industry, which has become a significant business with a bunch of our members," Bennington said. "Although its still small compared with residential, we now see significant growth on the commercial side."

"Lots of businesses already get cable TV, and they can order business broadband data from either telcos or from cable," said Peter Bernstein, president of Ramsey, N.J.-based Infonautics Consulting. "Theres a lot of fiber in cable plants in metro areas. They just need the terminal equipment, and then they need to come up with a price for a competitive service; a price, one would expect, lower than the telcos business DSL."

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