Owning The Comcast CPE

Motorola Arris SB6141 cable modemFor the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about the Comcast issued CPE that lives in my office. It’s a modem/router combination from SMC. We’ve had the service a long while. All the while we’ve been renting the device for $12.95 a month.

I can’t recall exactly when we transitioned from consumer to business class service. If I assume that it was five years ago, then we’ve paid over $750 in device rental! This for a device that can be purchased outright for under $200.

Clearly, this makes no sense at all. So last week I replaced the Comcast CPE with a Motorola/Arris SURFBoardSB6141. The choice of the SB6141 was made by consulting Comcast’s list of approved devices, and cross-referencing the SmallWall forums where Lee Sharp had some helpful advice to offer.

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New TIA Standards For HDVoice Over Analog Jacks

HDVoice News RJ-11 Wall PlateDoug Mohney of HDVoice News recently noted that The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) has issued a series of new standards documents in reference to wideband audio over analog connections. These new standards specify how HDVoice may be implemented with regard to analog telephone, speakerphones, headsets and related terminal equipment.

Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like…formal specifications for delivering wideband voice over traditional FXO/FXS connections.

This is more than just a curiosity, and could be very valuable to the widespread adoption of HDVoice outside of the mobile space.

Let’s consider the case of the Cable Companies. It’s been noted that their “Digital Voice” customers are well positioned to benefit from HDVoice. Cable companies have gained many residential and SMB voice lines in recent years, enough to cast Comcast as the third largest Telco in the US.

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HDVoice: On The Cheap & Analog RJ-11 Style

HDVoice RJ-11 Wall Plate A short while back I addressed the question of how DECT & CAT-iq may foster the broad deployment of HDVoice. At that time I described one possible scenario where carriers would deploy customer premises equipment (CPE) with an on-board cordless base station. Although a frontrunner, and the basis of Comcast’s (decidedly non-HD) HomePoint service, this is not the only approach afoot. There’s another possibility arising that involves conveying HDVoice over a plain old analog RJ-11 connection.

At first glance HDVoice and analog lines would certainly seem to be mutually exclusive. The common wisdom is that wideband telephony requires the use of an all-IP call path. This is in fact a generalization, and not absolutely true.

Firstly, it has long been possible to pass wideband audio, in the form of G.722 encoded media, over the PSTN by way of ISDN connections. Also known as BRI interfaces, an ISDN connection supports  up to two 64 kbps channels (bearer channels) and one D channel for the purposes of call setup & teardown signaling. High-quality voice using G.722 was one of the selling points of ISDN in the 1980s.

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15 Million Potentially HDVoice Capable End-points Deployed in Cable-Land!

Earlier today Doug Mohney of HDVoice News posted a short item from The Cable Show 2011. He was speaking to Derek Elder, Senior Vice President of Arris, a manufacturer of cable network infrastructure. The company claims that it has 15 million Arris end-points deployed, all of which are potentially capable of HDVoice.

To be more specific, these various end-points would be G.722 capable given a firmware upgrade. But there is a catch…the user-end interface is a standard analog RJ-11. That means that a digital voice subscriber would require correspondingly capable analog phone.

The legacy PSTN standards define how analog phones are built. The frequency response of devices is deliberately constrained in order to protect the network. Thus a wideband capable analog phone is at present a very rare bird.

Nonetheless, the company is able to demonstrate wideband voice using this approach in their Atlanta lab. That means that the firmware truly exists, as does the requisite hardware. So it would appear that there may be an alternative to the integration of SIP/CATiq that has been dominating the cable landscape with respect to HDVoice.