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Comcast on Track for First CCAP Rollouts

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is setting its sights on some small Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) deployments before the end of 2012, Vice President of Access Architecture Jorge Salinger said Monday during a Light Reading Cable webinar on the topic.

"We hope to deploy, in small scale, later this year, if the equipment is available," he said, adding that he expects deployments to ramp up in 2013. Comcast issued a CCAP request for proposal (RFP) earlier this year but has yet to announce its vendor selections. (See Comcast Issues CCAP RFP .)

As a reminder, CCAP is a next-generation access architecture that will pave cable's path toward an all-IP platform by combining the functions of the edge QAM and cable modem termination system (CMTS). That will create a simpler service structure that can be managed, controlled and configured via software, while also increasing port density (important for space and cooling in cable headends). CableLabs has completed the CCAP hardware specs, and is in the fourth revision of the platform's Operations Support System Interface components, Salinger says.

(An archive of this CCAP webinar will soon be available here within a few days.)

Salinger said Comcast is about to conclude a CCAP operational-readiness trial that involves a "handful of service groups" -- a large enough sample to extract some lessons from.

Among the early operational revelations: Comcast discovered it must strive to consolidate the monitoring of the network as it shifts to CCAP. Today's cable networks use different tools and alarms for different types of services (Docsis, video, etc.), and they tend to be managed by different teams. With CCAP, Comcast intends to adjust those operations so that one entity leads a coordinated effort.

But there can be no CCAP deployments without CCAP equipment.

The vendors claim they will be ready. Casa Systems Inc. introduced its integrated CCAP chassis at The Cable Show in May, and several other vendors, including CommScope Inc. , are expected to show CCAP-ready gear at next month's Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Cable-Tec Expo in Orlando. (See Casa Puts Heat on Cisco, Arris & Motorola , Why CommScope Bought LiquidxStream, Harmonic Goes All-Out for CCAP and Signs of CCAP .)

While Comcast appears to be out in front with CCAP, other major operators are expected to begin deployments some time in 2013.

Deployment scenarios
The suppliers represented on the webinar are taking different angles to CCAP. Casa is going with an integrated CCAP (CMTS plus edge QAM) device, while CommScope is developing a "non-routing" CCAP that could factor in to cable systems deployed with a modular CMTS architecture that uses the core CMTS device for the upstream path and edge QAMs for the downstream. (See Cable Rethinks 'Modular' CCAP .)

Going with a modular CCAP that ends up looking like a super-dense edge QAM could help operators handle video and data on the same platform. It would also preserve their existing architecture and line them up for a more integrated CCAP later on, said Shane Eleniak, vice president of advanced broadband solutions at CommScope.

Casa VP of Marketing and Business Development Mark Sumner held that operators could be better served by going with an integrated CCAP at the get-go, arguing that it's an architecture that's easier to manage and operate in part because it's less complex and relies on fewer devices. But Sumner allowed that some operators with modular CMTSs will likely wait before jumping ahead to a fully integrated CCAP. "Neither one is a wrong answer. It depends on what your architecture is today," he said.

Salinger said Comcast does have some modular CMTSs deployed and acknowledged that the operator isn't going to replace them right away.

Salinger also outlined some options that MSOs should consider when migrating to CCAP:

  • Augment capacity by installing CCAP and legacy gear side by side, and put new service groups on the CCAP platform.

  • Use CCAP to surgically support a new type of bandwidth-intensive service, such as a network DVR. (See Comcast Tests Network DVR in Boston .)

  • Go for a total infrastructure upgrade that would involve a full swap-out to CCAP in areas where an operator needs more density and where headend space is tight. But instead of chucking the old CMTSs and edge QAMs, the operator could redeploy that equipment in markets that don't yet need a full-fledged CCAP.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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