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Comcast is adding DOCSIS 3.1 to its own CCAP product specs and looking at remote PHY next.

Salinger Draws Comcast CCAP Roadmap

Mari Silbey
3/28/2014
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DENVER -- Cable Next-Gen Strategies & Technologies -- As the man affectionately dubbed the father of the Cable Converged Access Platform, it's appropriate that Comcast vice president of access architecture Jorge Salinger is already looking ahead to what's next for CCAP.

In 2014, most vendors have launched CCAP products in one form or another, and operator deployments are well underway. According to Salinger, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s own CCAP product specifications are already being expanded to include DOCSIS 3.1.

That work began in January, and Salinger said at Light Reading's technology event in Denver that he expects the DOCSIS 3.1 additions to the product specification to be complete within a month.

Beyond DOCSIS evolution, however, Salinger sees plenty of other opportunities for CCAP. Most notably, he and others are examining remote PHY strategies, which would mean distributing certain traditional headend functions out into the cable node.

The advantage of a remote PHY approach is that it moves modulation deeper into the network, creating a digital link where today an analog one exists. In the most extreme case, operators could remote both the PHY and MAC layers, essentially implementing a virtual CCAP device out in the node. The virtual CCAP strategy is one championed by startup Gainspeed, although that company hasn't launched any official products yet. (See Is CCAP Already Out of Date?)

There are major potential performance benefits in capacity and reliability to distributing CCAP functions further out into the network. However, cable companies have to wade through a number of options for implementing such an approach. Salinger laid out the next steps for remote PHY development, which include crafting remote PHY hardware and function specifications, and configuration and management specs. While saying he thought "this will all be developed this year," Salinger did concede that rolling out remote PHY technology will be a more difficult challenge.

Ony Anglade, senior access architect for Cox Communications Inc. , who sat on a CCAP panel with Salinger, agreed that deployment won't be easy. "[The] big challenge for us is the migration process," said Anglade.

Operators will have to decide which network transitions to consider first; for example, whether to deploy remote PHY in one of its forms, do a mid-split to ensure greater upstream capacity, or combine multiple strategies at once.

Steve Vogelsang, strategy vice president and CTO for IP routing and transport at Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), who was also on the CCAP panel, described the situation in even starker terms. He said that the changes cable companies have to make to their networks are analogous to keeping a plane in the air while swapping out the engine.

For vendors, said Vogelsang, the important thing will be to make sure that, as new products are introduced, technology providers have strategies for how to introduce those solutions into existing networks. Cable doesn't have the luxury of a greenfield environment.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

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