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Cisco Technology Helps Kabel Deutschland Provide Bundled Digital Communications Services over Cable

February 18, 2008

By Jason Deign, News@Cisco

Do not be fooled by the name: Kabel Deutschland (KDG), Germany's largest cable operator, is offering a lot more than television these days.

Almost 25 years since antenna-free television was introduced in the Federal Republic of Germany, KDG has found that moving information among people's homes is almost as important as getting the content in.

"Today, a large portion of our infrastructure has upstream channel capacity and can therefore transfer signals in both directions," says Fred Mattig, head of Advanced Technologies at Kabel Deutschland Breitband Services GmbH, KDG's broadband arm.

Bandwidth was no problem.

In line with the CableLabs® DOCSIS® (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications) 3.0 specification, the cable network can provide a throughput of approximately 200 megabits per second in both directions, roughly four times faster than the highest-speed digital subscriber line offerings available today.

Upstream channels not only provide the basis for interactive digital TV, but also for Internet access and telephone services via the cable network.

KDG started to deliver triple-play services in 2005 and has since equipped its signal booster units with upstream channel capacity in several tens of thousands of its distribution boxes. This process was completed for approximately 8 million households by the end of 2006.

This year, another 2.4 million households will be added. By the end of the 2008/2009 business year, up to 90 percent of the more than 15 million households with KDG cable connections are expected to support triple-play services.

KDG's evolution into a digital experience provider coincides with a period of dramatic shifts in the market. "We are not alone," says Mattig.

"Triple play is also being promoted by major telecommunications providers and we see them increasingly advancing into the traditional television broadcasting domain, with IPTV and video on demand. Currently everything is in a state of change."

Introducing upstream channels is not enough, however, explains Mattig: "To offer genuine triple play we had to fundamentally update the core infrastructure of our networks."

Crucial challenges during KDG's network transformation were obtaining the flexibility to provide customized service activation, enabling efficient billing of the content and services, and providing the scalability to support hundreds of thousands of voice connections.

"We opted for the Cisco IP Next-Generation Network (IP NGN) architecture because no other company even comes close to comprehensively supporting all aspects of the value chain for innovative triple-play services, from the backbone network right through to the equipment in the customer's living room," says Mattig.

The core IP backbone is a fully-redundant 10-Gigabit ring that currently encompasses ten metropolitan cities. A Cisco CRS-1 Carrier Routing System is installed at each access point in the high-speed core.

In addition, approximately 85 Cisco AS 5400 Series media gateways are deployed in the core IP network to handle the bridging of voice traffic onto other networks.

The transfer of the data traffic to the Internet and to other carriers' networks is handled by Cisco 7600 Series routers with 10 Gb/s connections.

At the points-of-presence (PoPs), Cisco uBR7246VXR and Cisco uBR10012 SeriesUniversal Broadband Routers provide the data transport to and from the subscribers.

Mattig says: "With Cisco's Cable Modem Termination Systems we can start with a small configuration, initially with just one line card in the router for example, and expand by adding more line cards as needed.

"Only when the growth in customer numbers exceeds the maximum capacity of the Cisco uBR7246VXR at any one of our more than 100 cable PoPs across Germany, will we need to scale to a larger Cisco CMTS system at the location."

KDG's voice service over cable basically functions similarly to voice over IP. The voice service transfer technology is provided by six Cisco BTS 10200 Softswitches located at two KDG data-processing centers.

Each Cisco BTS 10200 Softswitch can handle hundreds of thousands of telephone connections.

In addition, a Cisco PGW 2200 Media Gateway Controller, in conjunction with a Cisco IP Transfer Point and Cisco AS 5400 gateway, performs the signalling and the digital transfer onto Deutsche Telekom's public switched telephone network and other carriers' networks.

Mattig says: "The modular architecture and extreme scalability of Cisco's IP NGN voice solution delivered immediate revenue for KDG for a relatively small investment. Our voice service was 'in the black' right from the start."

And KDG is not limiting its services to telephone connections. The upstream channel-enabled TV cable offers additional capacity to accommodate broadband Internet access. More than 250,000 customers currently benefit from this option and more join them every day.

"The most important ability in today's highly competitive environment is to be flexible enough to bundle and immediately activate service packages tailored to customers' needs," says Mattig.

"No matter what our product managers conceive in terms of multimedia content offers, with our purely IP-based Cisco IP NGN we can cost-effectively and securely provide our customers with any type of data, voice and video service."

Jason Deign is a freelance journalist located in Barcelona, Spain.

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