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Hey, Motorola! Your CCAP Is Showing

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LR Cable News Analysis
Light Reading
11/12/2012
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Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) is inching closer to the launch of its first Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) product based on evidence that popped up at last month's Cable-Tec Expo in Orlando, where the vendor was showing off its latest handiwork behind closed doors.

Light Reading Cable did not get to lay its prying eyes on it, but several MSO execs tell us that they got a chance to see the new product in action in a section of Motorola's booth cordoned off for viewing for VIPs. Motorola has since confirmed as much.

Motorola, whose cable unit has been the subject of rampant M&A rumors following the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) acquisition, is not saying when it will officially launch its first CCAP, but the company has at least confirmed that it has given the product a name: the Video Services Platform (VSP).

That moniker might sound familiar to some readers. Back in 2010, Motorola was developing a next-gen cable access device called the Video Edge Services Platform (VESP), so it appears that the vendor simply took out "Edge" and ran with it from there.

It's also not clear if Benu Networks LLC , a startup based in Billerica, Mass., that was linked to Motorola's early CCAP development, had any input on the VSP. Multiple sources say that Motorola is an investor in Benu, but that the CCAP portion of its relationship with the startup may no longer be active. Motorola has declined to comment on its connection to Benu. (See Vendors Plan for Comcast's 'God' Box and Comcast, Moto Invest in CMAP Startup .)

Multiple CCAP architectures
Motorola's strategy is to develop both integrated and distributed CCAP architectures. The integrated version will combine both the edge QAM and cable modem termination system (CMTS) functions, while the distributed approach would enable the CCAP core to link up with super-dense edge QAMs, including the company's own Apex 3000. Moto thinks both approaches will help operators migrate toward an all-IP future.

Based on anticipated MSO plans, expect Motorola to reveal more details about the product line soon. Motorola Director of CMTS Marketing Jeff Walker says the vendor expects operators to test and deploy CCAP gear in limited fashion in 2013, and views 2014 and 2015 as key deployment years. (See Comcast on Track for First CCAP Rollouts .)

The budding CCAP market is starting to get crowded, so the race is on to gain the pole position as cable operators formulate their CCAP strategies. In addition to the usual suspects from the CMTS market (Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), Motorola and Casa Systems Inc. ), two other vendors -- Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) and CommScope Inc. -- are trying to elbow their way in. (See Harmonic Lines Up CCAP Trials, Casa Puts Heat on Cisco, Arris & Motorola and Why CommScope Bought LiquidxStream.)

One path Motorola will not pursue is to turn the VSP into a super-sized CMTS, and then add CCAP components later on. That is, however, the strategy under way at Arris, one of Moto's chief CMTS and edge QAM rivals. (See Arris Unleashes a Monster CMTS.)

"Suffice it to say that from Day 1, it will meet CCAP requirements," Walker says. The VSP, he adds, is "being built to support services going out not just three to five years, but ten years and beyond ... in terms of capacity."

Early impressions
Some early impressions of Motorola's CCAP-in-the-making were positive.

"It appears to be a very capable box," says an MSO exec who got a sneak peek, noting that the working demo showed the new chassis running some cable modems registered on it. The exec also remarked on the product's "unique design" and a new, higher-speed interface that links the master CCAP chassis to the Apex 3000.

Walker, meanwhile, said Moto didn't go with an off-the-shelf Advanced Telecommunications Computing Architecture (ATCA) design for its first CCAP chassis. Moto, he said, felt an ATCA approach "wouldn’t have the longevity," nor was it "appropriate for this type of product." (See AdvancedTCA .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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