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Motorola Pushes Ahead on Cable Access

It appears to be business as usual at Motorola Mobility LLC 's cable access unit, even after questions about its fate after the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) acquisition continue to swirl. (See Why Google Will Dump Moto's Cable Biz and Is the Set-Top Duopoly on Its Deathbed? )

The unit, which makes elements such as cable modem termination systems (CMTSs) and edge QAMs, is pushing forward with Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP), a much denser, next-gen platform that's expected to play a key role in cable's IP video migration.



Motorola is approaching CCAP on two fronts: one, developing a fully integrated chassis that combines CMTS and edge QAM functions and, two, using a distributed approach that relies on a CCAP core that handles upstream connectivity in conjunction with super-dense edge QAMs. Both product angles intend to unify all of cable's services on one platform.

Motorola's has already received orders for the Apex 3000, the universal edge QAM that will serve as a launch point for the vendor's distributed CCAP architecture, says Jeff Walker, Moto's director of CMTS product marketing. Some MSOs are trialing it now. The Apex 3000 will be a "significant [revenue] contributor this year," he adds.

That product and its 49 QAM channels per port, Walker says, will give cable operators the headroom for video on demand, switched digital video and perhaps network DVR applications alongside Docsis data traffic.

Motorola has not indicated when its full CCAP platform will be ready to go, but Walker says its integrated and distributed products will launch at the same time. He expects MSOs to start lab trials this year and follow with field trials in 2013. He sees 2014 and 2015 as the "key deployment years" for CCAP. Among MSOs, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has been in the throes of CCAP "operational-readiness" trials before gear becomes available, knowing that it will need to be ready to integrate video and data groups that historically have operated separately. (See Comcast Gets Ready for CCAP .)

Deployment scenarios
MSOs are unlikely to toss out edge QAMs and CMTSs before their lives are up, but some CCAP deployment scenarios are starting to emerge that will allow them to preserve older equipment. Walker believes some MSOs will focus initial CCAP deployments on large markets and redeploy older gear to systems that won't be ready for (or won't need) the upgrade until later.

Moto, like other vendors, sees CCAP as a market share opportunity that hasn't existed since cable first started to deploy Docsis. In terms of CMTS revenues, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has been tough to unseat at the top, followed by Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) and Motorola. (See Cisco Still King of CMTS Market.)

"Solid execution could re-open things and allow vendors to gain additional market share," Walker predicts.

But can vendors survive, let alone thrive, if port costs continue to decline in the CCAP era? Walker acknowledges that the market continues to head in that direction, but is hopeful that demand for port volumes will help to make up the difference.

Motorola is also keeping tabs on EPON Over Coax (EPoC), a budding Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) standard that aims to help cable deliver PON speeds without pushing fiber all the way to the premises. Some see EPoC as the step after CCAP. (See Why Cable Needs EPON Over Coax .)

Motorola is involved in that, too, but has not made any firm product commitments. "We're not placing any bets yet, but the idea is to stay engaged," says Floyd Wagoner, Moto's director of product marketing, network infrastructure solutions.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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