Comcast Gets Ready for CCAP
"The trial objectives are focused on getting us ready from an operational perspective to deploy CCAP devices," says Jorge Salinger, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s vice president of access architecture.
One challenge will be to get the network operations organization and processes ready to support CCAP devices from a range of suppliers.
"The CCAP ORT [operational readiness trial] is keenly focused on ensuring that our engineering and operations teams for the various services -- which have traditionally worked independently, given the different equipment they have managed -- operate together and coordinate activities around CCAP's unified platform," adds Salinger.
The trial also takes a deep dive into Comcast's backend systems, including how CCAP services will be configured, monitored and managed.
"There are many things we'll need to modify. We're not leaving it to chance," Salinger says. "There are some things we know and other things we'll find out during the trial."
And there will be plenty for Comcast to discover during the early days of CCAP, a platform that aims, for the first time, to break down and combine cable's traditionally discrete service silos.
"The CCAP has the potential to redefine how operators deploy, scale and manage edge network access," says Dave Bitondo, Comcast's VP of network engineering for the North Central division. "Video QAM and CMTS [cable modem termination system] infrastructure is currently deployed across a multitude of separate platforms, and edge capacity is managed manually and configured mechanically by connecting the various wires to the signal combining networks, which is operationally inefficient. One aspect of the CCAP is that it will allow MSOs to streamline our ability to bring new video, voice and data services to market quickly."
The CCAP trial has already produced some significant operational lessons. Among them: "Access to the device and troubleshooting service configuration and upgrade will require coordination that was not needed before," says Ty Pearman, Comcast's lead engineer for the CCAP ORT. "Actions related to a single service could potentially have impact on other services for which such work will need to be coordinated, and network events will need to be correlated for all services since a given alarm may or may not impact multiple services."
Beyond the lab
Comcast's CCAP trial has already extended beyond the lab, with testing underway in a headend in the MSO's North Central division without any subscribers connected to it. The next phase will test operations with connected customers.
"This current effort underway is about our own operational readiness, and not about the equipment," Salinger stresses. "After that, we'll focus on the evaluation of the equipment, once it becomes available from suppliers, and at that time perform equipment trials."
When equipment becomes available is still in flux, as vendors haven't offered any precise estimates. Salinger, however, is confident that some gear will be ready in time for Comcast to start deployments in 2012 "on a small scale," and set the stage for more general deployments starting in 2013.
"At some point, all we'll [deploy] is this kind of equipment. It will be a cap-and-grow approach, coupled with a relocation of current equipment as we have done with many other evolving technologies in the past" Salinger adds.
For an update on the CCAP specs and more detail about Comcast's trial, please check out this video interview with Salinger conducted at the recent Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Cable-Tec Expo:
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable