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Motorola sells cable modems to France

In its biggest cable deal yet in Europe, Motorola has agreed to sell its speedy CyberSurfr modems to France's largest cable operator, Lyonnaise Cable.

Inking its biggest cable deal yet in Europe, Motorola's multimedia group has agreed to sell its speedy CyberSurfr modems to France's largest cable operator as the latter launches Internet service in Paris, the companies announced today.

The deal between Motorola and Lyonnaise Cable is not the first. The cable company already uses Motorola's proprietary cable modem in three other French cities, and the modem is used by other operators in about 100 cities worldwide.

Though Motorola partnerships with U.S. companies eclipse this deal, the two million Parisian homes that have access to Lyonnaise's two-way lines leave Motorola hopeful that it will be a major landmark.

"It's a significant deal worldwide because of the large footprint Lyonnaise has," said Suzanne Boggs, a Motorola spokeswoman. "The marketing [for Lyonnaise's Internet service] is phenomenal. You get out of the Paris airport and there's a huge billboard for CyberSurfr."

Abner Germanow, an analyst at International Data Corporation, agreed the deal is healthy for Motorola because Lyonnaise's initial investment is likely to result in return business. "The way Motorola will probably end up making money off of this is not providing initial units but from being the default purchase for any follow-up purchases Lyonnaise makes," he said.

One potential liability with CyberSurfr modems is that they are not compliant with a specification known as the Multimedia Cable Network Systems specification, or MCNS. All the rage at this week's cable industry Western Show, MCNS is well on its way to becoming an industry standard because it will allow different companies' cable modems to interoperate the same way that phone modems do.

Most of the industry's heavyweights have lined up behind MCNS, including Cisco, 3Com, Bay Networks, NEC America, and Toshiba Multimedia Systems Division.

But Boggs said CyberSurfr's lack of MCNS compatibility will not be a hindrance, because the router Motorola is providing to Lyonnaise will be upgraded to communicate with both its proprietary modems as well as MCNS-compliant devices, once the industry has ironed out the specification. A router is a piece of hardware that regulates the flow of data through the bank of cable modems assembled by the provider.

Boggs declined to discuss the number of CyberSurfr modems it has sold to date, but said Motorola has deals with numerous cable companies, including Time Warner, MediaOne, TCI, and Comcast.