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Cable Tech

Cable access market rises on back of new hardware deployments – Dell'Oro

Cable access vendors enjoyed a solid first quarter of the year, as revenues in the category climbed 15% to $243 million, according to new data from Dell'Oro Group.

The quarter was marked by a rise in new hardware purchases, in the form of Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) chassis, line cards and distributed access architecture (DAA) nodes and modules, according to Jeff Heynen, vice president of broadband access and home networking at Dell'Oro.

In turn, revenues for new CCAP software licenses were down as operators started to exhaust the capacity of their already-deployed network hardware.

That's not a bad thing, as it represents solid evidence that node splits and high-split and mid-split programs that upgrade the amount of spectrum and capacity dedicated to the cable network upstream "are very much underway," Heynen said. "At some point, operators exhaust their CCAP capacity and need new [hardware]."

Although cable operators had to stick to their knitting last year by tacking on capacity to their legacy networks to stay ahead of data demands driven by the pandemic, the Q1 2021 numbers indicate that operators are now starting to pursue next-gen network projects, such as DAA, with more vigor.

"It's a sign that DAA has returned as a strategic priority," Heynen said. He won't yet commit to saying whether 2021 is poised to be a breakout year for DAA, but expects Q2 numbers to help shape the story of how rapidly and how broadly cable operators are pursuing DAA, which places key network electronics closer to the edges of the network and represents a requisite for future DOCSIS 4.0 networks.

According to Dell'Oro, CommScope led the cable access "concentrator" market (a category that includes DOCSIS infrastructure elements such as converged cable access platform cores and chassis, virtual CCAP licensing and DAA nodes and modules) with about 40% of revenues in Q1 2021, followed by Cisco (16%), Harmonic (16%) and Casa Systems (15%).

Challenges ahead for DOCSIS CPE suppliers

Focusing on DOCSIS modems and other customer premises equipment (CPE), Heynen said 80% of the devices shipped in Q1 were of the DOCSIS 3.1 variety.

But he's wary of the impact that chip shortages will have on DOCSIS CPE suppliers, believing that the market is at the "early stages" of how the issue will ultimately manifest itself. Of recent note, CommScope's Home Networks unit, which is in the process of being spun out, experienced a doubling of backlog in Q1 due to component shortages.

"It will be a challenging year for CPE suppliers," Heynen said, believing that flat market growth could be the best possible outcome due to continued component shortages.

Dell'Oro found that the total broadband access equipment market rose 18%, to $3.3 billion in Q1 2021. Another growth driver beneath that total was 10-Gig PON technologies, with upgrade cycles being facilitated by combo cards and optics that support legacy PON technology and provide an upgrade path to XGS-PON, Heynen said.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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