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Why Remote MACPHY makes sense in APAC

With COVID-19 continuing to rampage across much of the region, it's time for Asia-Pacific service providers to look at installing Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) technology in their wireline access networks.

That's because the pandemic has had a major impact on APAC providers, just as it has had on service providers throughout the rest of the world. Like their counterparts elsewhere, APAC operators have had to deal with traffic surges much higher than they initially expected heading into last year as tens of millions of subscribers have had to work and school from home. In particular, operators have seen their upstream network traffic soar as the pandemic has stoked subscriber demand for more bandwidth for video streaming, online gaming, video conferencing and other bandwidth-intensive applications.

Faced with this sharp, sudden upsurge in network traffic, APAC providers have been scrambling to boost bandwidth capacity to meet the current needs of customers, especially on the upstream side. They have also been scrambling to prepare their networks for further growth once the pandemic's toll finally subsides.

Fortunately for these shell-shocked operators, there are already technologies and tools available to help them cope with the heightened traffic demands on their wireline networks. One such key technology is DAA, which shifts key functions and intelligence out of the traditional cable headend and places them in the access network closer to the customer edge. As a result, DAA enables operators to expand bandwidth capacity and deliver more advanced services to subscribers, including multi-gigabit broadband speeds, while also cutting the number of hub sites, reducing power and cooling requirements and driving long-term cost efficiencies.

Both main flavors of DAA – remote PHY (which moves the RF physical circuitry from the headend to a fiber node in the access network) and remote MACPHY (which miniaturizes both the RF piece and the software/MAC processing and packs them into a fiber node) – offer these kinds of benefits to operators. That's why many operators are carefully studying and testing both remote PHY and remote MACPHY installations right now.

But, while remote PHY initially emerged as the more popular DAA option because it is easier to carry out, remote MACPHY appears to be even more promising now to many industry experts. That's because remote MACPHY enables operators to virtualize their entire access network and deploy the MAC processing piece wherever they would like, increasing their flexibility and cutting operational costs even further.

Plus, with CableLabs' adoption of the new Flexible MAC Architecture (FMA) specifications late last year, operators will now be able to plan and develop these next-gen access architectures without worrying about getting locked into vendor-specific, proprietary technologies. Among other things, that means they can deploy remote PHY in some systems and remote MACPHY in others, depending upon what makes the most sense for that market.

In addition, thanks again to the FMA specs, even providers with several different types of access networks will be able to delve easier into mobile backhaul, fixed-mobile convergence and other new services. So, no matter whether they have acquired hybrid fiber/coax (HFC), all-fiber, copper or wireless systems over the past few years, operators will be able to disaggregate their networks and take full advantage of virtualization's capabilities.

Of course, some challenges remain for the industry to pursue this evolution to both remote PHY and remote MACPHY architectures because of the technical and operational overhauls of the access network required. But, with the pandemic pushing providers to expand their network capacity and innovate at a much quicker pace than ever before, DAA's time has clearly come.

Want to learn more about what's happening with DAA in APAC? Click on this link for a video interview with Alper Turken, SVP Sales, APAC of CommScope.

This blog is sponsored by CommScope.

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— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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