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Harmonic Goes All-Out for CCAP

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

When it comes to developing products for cable's next-gen access platform, Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) 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. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) 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 .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:22:00 PM
re: Harmonic Goes All-Out for CCAP

There's also a market developing for non-routing CCAPs that are akin to giant downstream only edge QAMs, with CommScope (via its LiquidXstream acquisition) notably in that group, which is also expected to include the other CCAP vendors, so there will be a few vendors and product types emerging from this market.  Expect to hear more about that and what else is new on the CCAP front during this Webinar on Monday Sept. 10. JB

User Rank: Blogger
12/5/2012 | 5:22:00 PM
re: Harmonic Goes All-Out for CCAP

For awhile it's seemed like CCAP has been plodding along, looking like a technology in search of a marketplace. Comcast has been leading the CCAP charge and Time Warner Cable has been interested, both of which provide an initial customer base for suppliers, but what about other MSOs?

Some suppliers appear to favor their high-density edge QAM devices, but perhaps there's a hybrid that can meet the goals of CCAP. It'll be interesting to see what Harmonic comes out with.    

Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:21:59 PM
re: Harmonic Goes All-Out for CCAP

Probably better defined as an emerging market since I don't think anyone's really making any money on ccaps yet. Will be interesting to see how this market develops and replaces or complements the existing edge QAM/CMTS architecture.  Looking like these full integrated CCAPs will be good in big markets, allowing msos to redeploy cmts and eqam gear into smaller markets, and perhaps use these non-routing ccaps in mid-size/small markets as well.  Hoping to get a good update on that Webinar next week. JB


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