Cable network spending a mixed bag in Q3 – Dell'Oro Group
Cable network spending dipped 27% in Q3 2021 to $257 million on a year-over-year basis, but spending actually climbed at a healthy rate compared to the prior quarter, according to Dell'Oro Group.
Total Q3 revenues in the cable concentrator market, which includes DOCSIS infrastructure elements such as converged cable access platform (CCAP) cores and chassis, virtual CCAP licensing and distributed access nodes and modules, actually registered as the highest quarter of 2021, Jeff Heynen, VP of broadband access and home networking at Dell'Oro Group, said.
The year-over-year comparison in cable concentrator spending is "somewhat misleading," he added. He points to a bounce-back the industry experienced in the year-ago quarter as cable operators ramped up spending to beef up capacity on their legacy networks to keep pace with the data demands wrought by the pandemic.
The truth is that cable network spending has been on an upward trajectory since Q1 2021 as operators continue to splash cash on capacity-adding node splits, Heynen said.
Q3, he said, was also marked by an influx of new hardware sales, including CCAP linecards and new chassis, alongside those node splits.
"That clearly says to me there's capacity utilization on existing nodes and service groups that is still exceeding the comfort level threshold for cable operators," Heynen said.
DAA activity percolates
Heynen also saw rising activity in distributed access architecture (DAA) deployments as some operators shifted back to next-gen network projects that were put on the backburner during the earlier phases of the pandemic.
Revenues for DAA-focused Remote PHY Devices (RPDs) in Q3 was one of the highest seen of late. Total revenues in the category exceeded $30 million per quarter for the first three quarters of 2021, Heynen said. Sustained growth is happening in the category, though it's still growing at a slower pace than was originally expected, he added.
Heynen's also seeing some early stage growth for Remote MACPHY (RMD) devices, with that categry generating the highest revenues since before Huawei backed out of the cable access market.
Among suppliers, CommScope kept the top spot in Q3, with 44% of segment revenues, followed by Cisco Systems (22%), Harmonic (21%) and Casa Systems (9.5%), according to Heynen.
Moving to DOCSIS modems and gateways, shipments were down 17% year-over-year, and down 5% versus the prior quarter, reflecting a recent slowdown in broadband subscriber growth among US cable operators. Heynen said supply chain issues are pushing out lead times for cable CPE (customer premises equipment), particularly for newer models.
The bigger broadband picture
Dell'Oro said global revenues for the total broadband access equipment market rose 7%, to $3.9 billion, year-over-year.
The fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) market remained strong, with total PON ONT (optical network terminal) unit shipments reaching 32 million in the quarter, up 15% year-over-year. It was the fourth consecutive quarter in which unit shipments have exceeded 30 million globally, according to Dell'Oro.
Meanwhile, XGS-PON OLT (optical line terminal) port shipments brought in record revenues in Q3, Heynen said. However, XGS-PON ONT shipments are lagging behind because of supply chain constraints and the use of combo ports that are still supporting GPON-based services, the analyst said.
Another bright spot was fixed wireless CPE. That market is still dominated by LTE units on a global basis, but there's some acceleration in 5G product shipments, thanks to deployments by T-Mobile and Verizon in the US and by NBN in Australia, he said.
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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