CWC Cable Modem FAQ
This page contains a distillation of all that is known, at the time of writing, about CWC's plans for cable modems. The page was last updated on 19 November 1998.

When will they be available?

Not clear. The original notion was that digital television services would start off in the first quarter of 1999 with cable modems appearing in the second quarter. At the time of writing the first date is still 'on' but the second has become vague.

Who will run them?

Cable and Wireless Internet. Unlike BT's ADSL there will almost certainly be no involvement of other ISPs.

How much will they cost?

Once again unclear, but it has been hinted at being a flat rate. After all, no other country with cable modem services runs them at anything other than a flat rate.

What will the speed be?

It is quoted as being between 2Mb/sec and 10Mb/sec.

Who makes the cable modems?

Pace, familiar from their telephone modems. The 'Pace box', designed to CWC's specification, has a 'powerful cable modem' inside which, it has been confirmed, can either connect to a PC or be used standalone.

A Pace press release suggests that, in standalone mode, the 'Pace box' uses existing software from NCI (see below), including a version of Netscape Navigator; the supporting technology is from Cisco

How would a cable modem connect to my computer?

Easily; you buy an ISA or PCI Ethernet card (extremely cheap - about £25 for a bare-bones one), put it in a spare slot and connect the cable modem to it. After that, configuring the cable modem is straightforward - there is no dial-up networking trauma as, to all intents and purposes, your computer behaves as though it were part of an office LAN.

Don't CWC have another set-top box?

CWC started off the slow march to digital services by announcing, in March 1998, a set-top box made by General Instrument with software by Network Computer Incorporated. This box was quickly nicknamed the 'Tonto 2000' as the hardware was pretty feeble - it had a telephone-based return path.

Something happened in July which sparked off a complete change of direction; the 'Tonto 2000' hardware was dropped and the far more powerful 'Pace box' substituted with the NCI software remaining.

Weren't CWC running cable modem trials before?

Yes; in Manchester. They were inherited from Nynex, had been running successfully for three years, then were abruptly stopped in May.

The reason given to the triallists was that CWC wanted to save £250,000 a year; the real reason was that, at that time, CWC had decided never to release cable modems - and then the change of direction in July put them back on the agenda.

When will they start running trials again?

The original date was July or August this year 'in the South'. When the 'Pace box' substituted for the 'Tonto 2000', this date slipped to the fourth quarter of this year, so there's still time.

Where can I find out more about the technology?

This dissertation is the definitive source.
Text by Alastair Scott

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