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Bay calls on cable modem market

Bay Networks will release its plans for the cable modem market tomorrow, with initial products due in the second quarter of next year.

Counteracting fellow networking competitor 3Com, Bay Networks will release its plans for the cable modem market tomorrow, with initial products due in the second quarter of next year.

Bay gained entry to what is expected to be a lucrative market for cable modems via the September 1996 acquisition of LANcity. LANcity has manufactured equipment for cable operators since the late 1980s. The company's latest introduction represents a fourth generation of cable modem products.

As reported last week by CNET's NEWS.COM, 3Com will ship initial cable modems for the consumer marketplace early next year that support a specification for the hardware called MCNS, for Multimedia Cable Network System, and the resulting DOCSIS specification, for Data over Cable System Interface Specification. MCNS is the moniker for a group of four cable companies that manages the cable pipes.

Bay also supports the protocol. The main difference between the two introductions is that 3Com's modems will use a telephone connection to send data to the Net while Bay's modems will utilize the high-speed cable bandwidth in both directions.

The shipment of cable modems as well as the "head-end" equipment needed at a cable company's main site portends an industry shift toward the "consumerization" of cable modems. The key to this consumer drive is the MCNS specification because, as a standard being supported by all major vendors, it guarantees interoperability for consumers.

Bay executives said cable modems should break the under $100 barrier within 18 months, with the main driver being the interoperability between products, according to Gerry White, chief technology officer for Bay's broadband technology division.

"It's not a question of us and them here," White said.

The introduction will include a cable modem targeted at residential and small office/home office (SOHO) customers and will include a 10-mbps Ethernet network interface. Bay will also offer a back-end CMTS, or Cable Modem Termination System, that also includes local area connections and will support forwarding rates of 50,000 frames per second. Bay will also provide network management features for its cable strategy to allow cable companies to administer their network.

No specific pricing information was released by the company.