Comcast Targets First CMAP Field Trial

DENVER -- Cable Next-Gen Broadband Strategies -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) plans to brings its budding Converged Multiservice Access Platform (CMAP) one step closer to deployment in the weeks ahead when the MSO starts testing the "operational readiness" of the architecture.

During his keynote here on Thursday, Comcast VP of Access Architecture Jorge Salinger said Comcast is targeting that trial for mid-2011. The objective, he said, will not focus on the testing of CMAP-based equipment but, rather, on ensuring that the underlying operations will be up to snuff as Comcast and other MSOs get closer to pulling the trigger on more extensive CMAP field tests and, eventually, deployments.

Plotting CMAP Plans

Those trials, Salinger said, will aim to "bring reality to the day-to-day life" of CMAP. That's of importance, he added, because it's becoming clear that CMAP will require a bunch of new tools to support key OSS elements such as network management and trouble ticketing that are already doing the job in the pre-CMAP world.

"There are more tools that will change than will not change," Salinger predicted. "There's a phenomenal amount of work that needs to be done to prepare for deployment."

And the operational changes will also have an effect on how cable engineers do their jobs and interact with each other. In today's world, Docsis and video engineers tend to operate in silos, and may not even know each other. Those worlds will come together under CMAP, because the architecture will merge those two sides together so they operate on the same control plane.

Such a cultural shift is growing more common among service providers as they look to integrate their networks and IT teams, something that Light Reading has identified in its new "Bridging the Chasm" editorial campaign. (See Why Bridging the Chasm Is Critical for Carriers, LR Launches 'Bridging the Chasm' Campaign and Bridging the Chasm: A Manifesto.)

CMAP, meanwhile, is coming of age as cable continues its transition to an all-IP infrastructure that will, for the first time, add video to that mix. But to do that, cable's looking for CMAP to improve port densities significantly by combining the traditional functions of the cable modem termination system (CMTS) and the edge QAM. In addition to reducing hard costs, the architecture is designed to reduce required headend space by 50 percent while providing four times the capacity. Salinger says that will also translate to a 60 percent power savings.

"These reasons alone will justify the need for the CMAP," Salinger says.

But there's still a long road ahead. MSOs don't expect to start receiving CMAP gear for initial lab testing until mid-year, with field trials expected to start in late 2011 and early 2012. Initial deployments could start sometime next year.

Salinger is hopeful that most MSOs will have a "degree of CMAPs deployed in their markets" by 2014. Several major MSOs and cable organizations are already contributing to CMAP, including Cox Communications Inc. , Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Charter Communications Inc. , Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI), Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), Cable Europe Labs and National Cable Television Cooperative Inc. (NCTC) , a programming-and-hardware-buying consortium that represents about 950 Tier 2 and 3 MSOs.

Conspicuously absent from that list is Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), which is undertaking a similar project on its own. [Ed. note: We'll have much more on that project soon.] But there's already work going on to ensure that there's some harmony between CMAP and what TW Cable's cooking up.

Salinger said the CMAP group is having "extensive discussions with Time Warner Cable to make sure we have common requirements."

To get up to speed on CMAP, check out:

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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