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What Comcast Learned From Trying Out CCAP

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

While much of the discussion on Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) has centered on a new breed of high-density network gear, deploying the next-gen network will also require some significant changes to the way MSOs operate.

Deploying CCAP "won't be a simple box swap," insisted Jorge Salinger Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s VP of access architecture, a panelist on a Light Reading webinar on cable's CCAP activities on Tuesday. (An archive is available here.)

"Preparing for deployments is not a trivial matter," Salinger said.

To get ready for some small-scale deployments in 2013 and a broader rollout in 2014, Comcast conducted a six-month CCAP operational-readiness trial earlier this year with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and another vendor that the operator has yet to disclose. (See Comcast Issues CCAP RFP and Comcast on Track for First CCAP Rollouts .)

Getting the operational house in order will become paramount for CCAP because it will mark the first time that cable operators will combine two groups –- video and data -- that have been mostly independent of each other.

A reshuffling of engineering talent and new training requirements aren't the only operational challenges operators can expect to face with CCAP, a high-density platform that will combine the functions of the cable modem termination system and the edge QAM.

Salinger said Comcast also discovered that it will need to consolidate its monitoring and alarm systems, as well as its support processes. Comcast uses different trouble ticket systems for data and video, so those will need to be unified.

The trial did show that CCAP is already a stable system. There was only one outage during the six-month trial, and that was not due to the CCAP platform itself, Salinger said.

Deployment scenarios and service drivers
Salinger also outlined a range of possible CCAP deployment scenarios, including a "drop in" to augment existing capacity; the addition of CCAP for a specific, new, capacity-intensive service; and a full infrastructure upgrade, whereby the operator would install the new platform and redeploy the older CMTS and edge QAM gear.

Earlier in the webinar, Cisco Senior Director of Marketing John Mattson talked about expanding capacity in edge QAMs and CMTSs as middle-step in the CCAP migration. He also suggested that cable operators won't need to deploy a fully integrated CCAP platform until after they start to deliver 1Gbit/s speeds to individual service groups. (See Cisco Says CCAP's Tipping Point Is 1Gbit/s.)

Among service drivers, Salinger noted that video-over-IP is "one reason why the migration to CCAP is necessary," and also identified a cloud DVR as the kind of service that would require a new level of QAM densities. (See Comcast Execs Talk Up X2, Cloud DVR and Comcast Tests Network DVR in Boston .)

But CCAP's densities will also provide cable with a much greener system. Salinger said CCAP will support four times the capacity in half the rack space, cut power consumption by about 60 percent, and essentially eliminate the need for brick-and-mortar headend expansions.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/10/2013 | 4:00:10 AM
re: What Comcast Learned From Trying Out CCAP

CCAP's anticipated operational impact makes me wonder if the tier 2 operators will hold off for a bit while they let Comcast and TW Cable and maybe another major operator figure this out and come up with best practices on deployment.  And that's not even addressing whether some of the smaller msos will *need* CCAP for a while.  JB

Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/10/2013 | 4:00:09 AM
re: What Comcast Learned From Trying Out CCAP

Interesting point... if space is already extremely tight, it could be tough to squeeze in the new gear before an operator could start to take out some of the legacy equipment and take advantage of those space and power savings expected from CCAP. JB


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