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Intel back in cable business

After pulling out of the retail market, Intel is back in the cable modem business with systems for cable operators.

After getting out of the retail market for cable modems in March, Intel (INTC) is back, saying it will provide systems for cable operators that in turn will supply them to end users.

Intel says the new CablePort line includes a modem for users, a content delivery system for the cable company's main office, and software for network management. The new family of products will allow cable companies to deploy cable modem systems quickly for their subscribers.

"Yes, we did make an annoucement in March that we are not going to be doing a branded product that we will sell retail. CablePort is a trademarked name similar to Intel ProShare [a videoconferening product]. This product will be sold directly to cable operators and OEMs for resale to end users. Users will not be buying directly, but they will be buying it through their service provider," an Intel spokesperson said.

The cable modem is an internal PCI card with on-board 100-megabit Intel Ethernet controller. Users can download material at speeds of 30 mbps to 41 mbps, according to the company, but a separate analog telephone line or a high-speed ISDN connection is needed to transmit data. For managers of the cable network, there is built-in SNMP for diagnostic applications and an auto-dialer that simplifies connection to the network.

For the "head-end" system maintained at a cable company's headquarters, Intel will ship the scalable CablePort Cable Data Delivery System (CDDS), a hardware and software package that routes, controls, and monitors content delivery. Networking components include a router made by Cisco Systems.

CablePort Install Software, which is also available for use with external cable modems, automates the installation process and provides guidance through a common graphical user interface.

Intel says the products will be available in limited quantities early next year with volume deployments expected in the second half of 1997. Intel's Cable Products division will market the products directly to cable operators.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.