John Chapman, a cable tech vet who helped to lead the development of DOCSIS and the industry's pivot to DAA, was among the execs swept up in Cisco's recent layoffs. Chapman says he'll take a break before exploring opportunities.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

February 28, 2024

3 Min Read
John Chapman hedshot
John Chapman.(Source: Cisco)

It's the end of an era at Cisco Systems.

John Chapman, the well-regarded cable industry vet and DOCSIS pioneer, confirmed that he will be leaving Cisco amid a recent wave of layoffs that will impact about 5% of the company's workforce – or roughly 4,000 jobs.

Chapman currently serves as CTO, broadband, and a fellow at Cisco, covering areas such as PON, fixed wireless access (FWA) and mobile.

He joined the company more than 34 years ago and recalls being interviewed by Cisco founders Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner. He came aboard while Cisco was still a private startup with about 20 design engineers and 70 people across the whole company, he recalls.

"When I joined the company, the Internet wasn't really designed yet," Chapman said, noting that one of his first projects involved HSSI (High-Speed Serial Interface), a predecessor of SONET. "Dial-up modems and AOL was where we were at. I joined five years before the Netscape browser came out." Chapman also ran and designed the first ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) at Cisco that produced a serial chip called Mueslix.

Chapman, who co-founded Cisco's cable business in 1995 and helped to lead Cisco's move into the cable modem termination system (CMTS) business, is also considered one of the primary inventors of DOCSIS.

Related:Cisco exec and self-professed 'cable guy' keeps his hand in the HFC game

His contributions to DOCSIS started with DOCSIS 1.0, followed by VoIP support in DOCSIS 1.1, load balancing for the DOCSIS 2.0 specifications, channel bonding that was introduced with DOCSIS 3.0, as well as the DOCSIS Set-Top Gateway (DSG). He also pioneered remote PHY, one of the primary options for the industry's current pivot to a distributed access architecture (DAA).

Chapman also conducted some of the earliest work on Full Duplex DOCSIS (FDX), one of the options for DOCSIS 4.0.

"Inventing remote PHY is something I'd like to be remembered for. It really was one of the big passions in my life," said Chapman, who was inducted into SCTE Hall of Fame in 2012 and was named to the Cable TV Pioneers in 2019.

Cisco's transition away from cable access

Chapman's departure enters the picture during a period in which Cisco has gradually backed away from the cable access business and hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) components. That shift is illustrated by Cisco's licensing of its amplifier tech to ATX Networks, the phasing out of amps, taps and nodes, and a decision to halt investment in Full Duplex DOCSIS technology. Cisco developed a virtual CMTS, but that product has been on an indefinite hold.

Cisco still has a small design team in Boxborough, Massachusetts, that manages the cBR-8, a CMTS chassis that is deployed as an integrated CMTS as well as in DAA remote PHY deployments. Cox Communications, a top adopter of remote PHY, remains one of the biggest customers of the cBR-8.

Related:Technetix appoints Cisco's John Chapman to strategic advisory board

Chapman's departure from Cisco comes amid layoffs that have hit the broader tech sector in recent weeks. It also enters the picture as Cisco continues to grapple with weakness in the service provider segment. Cisco said sales in its service provider and cloud segment were down 40% in its fiscal second quarter of 2024.

Cisco's latest layoff includes more than 700 jobs in the Bay Area, according to reports citing recent WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act letters.

Chapman's next chapter awaits

Chapman doesn't plan to hang up his spurs just yet.

Chapman, who's currently a member of the strategic advisory board at Technetix and the author of about 140 patents, expects to take a short break before exploring options. That exploration could possibly lead to work on other advisory or governance boards, working in venture capital or joining another supplier or an operator.

"I enjoy leading teams and driving industries," Chapman said of his future plans. "I'm a techno-biz executive. My skill is identifying a viable solution to a problem and then leading a team to build the right product and ship it."

Related:Cisco halts investment in Full Duplex DOCSIS

He's seen the access industry move from kbit/s to Mbit/s, and now sees it heading to Tbit/s territory.

"At the end of the day, I want to connect everyone to the Internet and to each other," he said.

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About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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