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Cable Tech

CableLabs unit and OpenVault connect on tech that squeezes more out of DOCSIS 3.1

With DOCSIS 3.1 networks now mature and widely deployed, the cable tech community is starting to focus more on techniques that can generate more capacity, particularly in the upstream direction, without having to resort to node splits or deploying more hardware.

One software-focused option on the table is the Profile Management Application (PMA), a technology originally supported by DOCSIS 3.1 that's designed to boost network capacity in the range of 20% to 40%.

The general idea behind PMA is to dynamically tap into the best possible modulation for every frequency/channel in the cable spectrum, rather than be limited to the best modulation that all cable modems and cable modem termination systems (CMTSs) can use based on impairments – such as interference or noise – present on certain parts of the network.

PMA is a technique that can help DOCSIS networks deliver both downstream and upstream data more efficiently as conditions change. 
(Source: the lightwriter/Alamy Stock Photo)
PMA is a technique that can help DOCSIS networks deliver both downstream and upstream data more efficiently as conditions change.
(Source: the lightwriter/Alamy Stock Photo)

PMA technology has been available for years. But scaled deployments have been limited due to some challenges involving testing, tools and other elements required for compliance and integration with various CMTSs.

Kyrio, a for-profit subsidiary of CableLabs known for things like DOCSIS certification testing, aims to overcome some of those challenges with its recently launched PMA Partner Program.

That program includes access to Kyrio's test labs, internal expertise and software libraries of "profile translators" that can transform the data into a form that can be read and implemented by various CMTSs now in the field. And instead of relying on a manual process, the resulting system aims to create profiles for modulations that can change dynamically as network conditions change.

Creating a 'launch pad' for PMA

But the bigger idea is to build a "launch pad" that enables PMA vendors to accelerate their time to market, according to Mario Di Dio, VP of software and network technology at Kyrio.

With DOCSIS 3.1 networks reaching maturity, operators are now going through network transformations that can drive more value out of their investments, Di Dio explained.

The first partner to sign on is OpenVault, a company known for network data collection and analysis, and for its quarterly studies that identify broadband usage trends.

OpenVault signaled its interest in the PMA opportunity after acquiring VelociData, a company that has worked with Kyrio on the development of products that use those techniques. Some of that PMA handiwork is now part of OpenVault's Capacity Booster, an offering that uses closed-loop automation to constantly monitor every channel and modem in the DOCSIS network.

Joe Lancaster, OpenVault's chief strategy officer and an exec who joined the company via the VelociData deal, said Capacity Booster is in trials with multiple operators under an early access program. The product can supply additional upstream and downstream capacity, but upstream is where the most need is, he added.

Lancaster noted that supply chain constraints are causing some operators to explore new ways to generate capacity that don't require hardware. The PMA approach, he explains, is somewhat akin to a software-based "virtual" node split that can beef up capacity.

Di Dio said Kyrio believes that the PMA Partner Program will help to level the playing field among suppliers. Discussions with other suppliers about joining the program are underway, he said.

Others in the industry are also creating ways to drive network efficiency through automation and software. Notably, Comcast appears to be using similar techniques for Octave, a relatively new AI-driven technology that is helping the operator improve network performance by rapidly identifying and fixing network anomalies through polling and analyzing anonymized data from gateways and modems. Octave's AI decision engine is being used to dynamically set the highest supported modulation profiles of individual modems on the network.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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