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Intel's buggy Puma 6 chipset earns Arris a gigabit-modem lawsuit

Laggy silicon at heart of broadband boxes lands gateway maker in court

By Shaun Nichols in San Francisco

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Cable modem maker Arris is facing a class-action suit in America over its handling of a lag-prone line of cable modems.

The complaint, filed in the Northern California District Court, accuses the vendor of violating four consumer protection laws and seeks relief for folks in the Golden State who purchased an Arris SURFboard SB6190 modem since its launch in late 2015.

According to the complaint, Arris violated state laws on misleading advertising and unfair competition, as well as consumer protection and warranty laws, when it advertised and sold the SURFboard cable modems as "gigabit" home internet boxes.

As covered in detail by El Reg in December, the Arris SB6190 was among home gateways using a buggy Intel Puma 6 chipset that was prone to high latency under certain circumstances. This chipset caused the SB6190 – and other DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems using Intel's silicon – to suffer from jittery connectivity that ruined online gaming and other latency-sensitive apps.

While Arris is the only company named in the complaint, it was not the sole vendor to fall victim to the design flaw. Branded boxes offered by Comcast and Virgin Media, as well as modems from Hitron and Compal and network gear from Cisco and Linksys, were all said to use the lag-prone Puma 6 chipset.

Attorneys for named plaintiff Carlos Reyna cited The Register's in-depth coverage in claiming that by failing to ship a fully working product and by not being able to coordinate with ISPs to provide an effective firmware update to remedy the issue, Arris had failed in its obligations to customers.

"By shipping modems with this defect, Arris sold consumer goods that were substantially below the quality generally available in the market, were not fit for the Internet connectivity for which they were generally used, and were not adequately packaged and labeled," the complaint reads.

"Arris also concealed the network latency problem with the Modem through its marketing, advertising, and packaging of the product."

The suit seeks a jury trial to decide damages for Reyna and all other Californians who purchased the SB6190.

Arris declined to comment, citing the matter as pending litigation. Separately, we're told a firmware update for the Puma 6 issue, developed by Intel and Arris, has been sent out to some customers, however it is not a full fix and is considered by affected punters to be incomplete.

Meanwhile, Arris opted for a chipset from Intel's rival Broadcom in its latest gigabit cable modem – the DOCSIS 3.1 SB8200 – that was announced earlier this year. This means Arris snubbed Intel's Puma 7, a DOCSIS 3.1 part and a successor to the buggy Puma 6, for its newest device and went with Broadcom's BCM3390 chip instead.

According to early reviews, it looks like it was a good decision to go with Broadcom. Reviewers online have given the SB8200 a thumbs up.

It is possible Arris switched from Intel's Puma 7 to the Broadcom BCM3390 at short notice for the SB8200 after the Puma 6 scandal blew up. However, due to manufacturing pipelines, it's more likely Arris had the BCM3390 lined up for the SB8200 months before the firmware debacle kicked off – and good thing, too. ®

Additional reporting by Kieren McCarthy.

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