When it comes to developing products for cable's next-gen access platform, Harmonic Inc. isn't messing around.
Harmonic, known for its edge QAM expertise, has been quietly adding Docsis know-how as it prepares to launch a full CCAP chassis, Light Reading Cable has learned.
That strategy will put Harmonic on a collision course with some of the industry's leading cable modem termination system (CMTS) vendors, including Cisco Systems Inc., Arris Group Inc. and Motorola Mobility.
Harmonic President and CEO Patrick Harshman hinted at the product strategy during the company's second-quarter earnings call in July, noting that Harmonic is making a "substantial investment" in its CCAP initiative. "We have scaled up our development team, adding a number of skilled Docsis experts, and have made amazing development progress," he added.
Harmonic hasn't said much about those Docsis-related hires, but an industry source says Harmonic has added some CMTS firepower by bringing on some engineers who were formerly at Terayon Communication Systems, a cable modem and CMTS vendor that's now part of Motorola. The bigger focus on CCAP also comes as Harmonic executed a strategic reorganization that put company veteran Nimrod Ben-Natan in charge of the company's new Edge and Access business unit.
So, what's Harmonic up to? It's not revealing all the details yet, but Harmonic VP of Cable Solutions Gil Katz confirms that the company will introduce a "CCAP-compliant" product at next month's Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Cable Tec-Expo 2012 in Orlando, and will be ready to take orders for it soon after the event.
That will expand the number of known full CCAP players to five, as Cisco, Arris, Motorola and Casa Systems Inc. have all announced plans to develop products for the power- and space-saving access platform, which combines edge QAM and CMTS functions in one box. The port densities envisioned for CCAP will put cable on an all-IP convergence path as more and more video traffic becomes unicast as MSOs adopt services such as the network DVR. (See Casa Puts Heat on Cisco, Arris & Motorola .)
Like other CCAP vendors, Harmonic won't have every part of the spec covered at the get-go, but intends to add features and components as cable operators require them. But Katz adds that Harmonic is also working on a complementary CCAP product that will introduce a new class of HFC transmitter and a broader optical transmission system that will help operators use the fiber portion of their HFC networks more efficiently. More on that is expected to come out before the SCTE event.
A race for number 3?
According to Infonetics Research Inc., Harmonic still leads the edge QAM market. But its move into the Docsis realm will put it in a bigger fight with the cable industry's top three top CMTS vendors -- Cisco, Arris and Motorola -- as MSOs begin to test and deploy CCAP in the coming months and years. (See Cisco Keeps Stranglehold of CMTS Market and Comcast Issues CCAP RFP .)
And even if Harmonic can develop a CCAP product that differentiates itself from the field, it may have trouble loosening the grip of the main CMTS incumbents, despite ongoing questions about the fate of Motorola's cable business. (See Google Taps Barclays to Shop Motorola Home .)
"Two to three players in the full CCAP space is about all the market can bear," Infonetics analyst Jeff Heynen told Light Reading Cable back in May. (See CCAP Market Is Cisco's & Arris's to Lose .)
â€” Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable