AOI adds smarts to cable amps with 'QuantumLink'

Outfitted with LoRaWAN technology, AOI's 'QuantumLink' platform aims to help cable operators remotely manage new amplifiers as well as legacy amps that can be upgraded with a drop-in module.

October 5, 2023

3 Min Read
Applied Optoelectronics AOI logo shown on a computer screen through a magnifying glass

Applied Optoelectronics (AOI) is teaching the cable amplifier some new tricks as operators look to beef up the reliability of their hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks.

Amid cable network upgrades to distributed access architectures and potentially DOCSIS 4.0, AOI has introduced QuantumLink, a platform that enables operators to remotely manage and monitor their widely deployed cable amplifiers.

Part of AOI's broader Quantum Bandwidth-branded line of products, QuantumLink is now a built-in feature in Quantum18, AOI's new 1.8GHz smart amp. The company said QuantumLink can also be deployed as a drop-in upgrade into the backhousings of legacy amplifiers, including legacy gear from Scientific-Atlanta, Cisco Systems and ATX Networks, which effectively took over Cisco's amplifier business in 2020.

AOI said the general idea is to outfit amplifiers with transponders and a virtual controller that feeds data to headends and hubs. That, in turn, enables operators to set up, manage and control the amplifiers and rapidly pinpoint issues such as ingress and outages without having to lean exclusively on expensive and time-consuming truck rolls, the company explained.

AOI's approach with QuantumLink fits an industry trend as operators such as Comcast develop new ways to gain deep visibility into their networks by tapping into real-time data and AI tools.

Related:AOI amps up its cable biz

Connecting with LoRaWAN

QuantumLink connects using LoRaWAN, a long-reach, low-power wireless technology that's popular in some segments of the enterprise IoT market. QuantumLink's platform draws less than 1 watt of power, AOI said.

With a focus on open source and standards, the company notes that CableLabs and a software engineer named Orne Brocaar have developed an open source LoRaWAN network server called Chirpstack for LoRA devices under an MIT license. QuantumLink can also be integrated into cable systems supporting tools and protocols such as SNMP, RestConf and Kafka, AOI explained in an email exchange.

AOI said it will show off QuantumLink and its broader Quantum Bandwidth lineup later this month at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2023 in Denver. The company has not announced any operator field trials or deployments for QuantumLink but says it is receiving "strong interest" from operators. AOI execs told Light Reading earlier this year that it was also exploring a licensing model for QuantumLink.

"As bandwidth requirements continue to expand and network complexity increases, cable service providers need to resolve issues faster now more than ever,” Todd McCrum, SVP and GM of broadband access for AOI, said in a statement.

Related:ATX starts to pick up where Cisco left off

Connecting with cable ops

QuantumLink and the Quantum Bandwidth lineup are taking shape as AOI moves ahead with plans to sell amps, nodes and other products directly to operators under its own brand. In the cable sector, AOI has traditionally designed and built products through vendor partnerships as an original design manufacturer (ODM).

In addition to making and shipping its own 1.2GHz amps at its plant in Sugar Land, Texas, the company is also ramping up plans for its new lineup of 1.8GHz amps. AOI's direct-to-operator model will put it in competition against companies such as ATX, CommScope, Technetix and Teleste, among others.

McCrum, a former exec of Cisco and Scientific-Atlanta, joined AOI earlier this year to head up the company's direct-to-operator initiative. Industry vets such as Al Johnson (Casa Systems, BroadLogic and Celeno), Michael Ballard and Steve Pederson (both late of Cisco), and Eduardo Cabrera (Cisco, Espial, Technetix and Adelphia Communications) have also joined McCrum's team in recent weeks.

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