Aurora Swims Upstream

As demand grows for greater cable upstream capacity, Aurora Networks is responding to the call with an “upgradable” fiber node solution that’s designed to let cable operators greatly expand their limited return path when needed.

Aurora Networks Inc. says the new node solution will enable cable providers to more than double the range of their upstream return path to 5 MHz to 85 MHz, up from the currently restrictive 5 MHz to 42 MHz range. With that much more expanded range, cable operators could carry far more upstream traffic from their broadband customers, as well as offer higher data upload speeds to them.

Besides the expended upstream range, the new Aurora product also supports a downstream range of 102 MHz to 1002 MHz. As a result, the company claims, cable providers will e able to upgrade their return paths with “the push of a button” as needed.

The solution, which Aurora plans to demonstrate at next week’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Atlanta, consists of the company’s NC2000 and NC4000 nodes. These two nodes are then coupled with Aurora’s Universal Digital Return technology, known as the DT4250N.

Aurora says the extra upstream bandwidth will come in handy as cable operators keep tapping into higher data speeds and greater capacity from the industry’s current DOCSIS 3.0 broadband standard. And they believe the expanded bandwidth will help even more as cable providers prep for the more powerful next-gen DOCSIS 3.1 specs that CableLabs is now crafting.

But such “mid-splits,” which is the way that cable engineers typically refer to the expansion of the upstream spectrum to 85 MHz, are considered tricky and costly to carry out. As a result, few MSOs have announced plans to carry out these upstream upgrades so far.

Plus, some leading cable technologists are hopeful that DOCSIS 3.1 will forestall the need to conduct mid-splits, thanks to the greater spectral efficiencies that the proposed specs will introduce. At the Cable Show in June, both Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) CTO Tony Werner and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) CTO Mike LaJoie said they’re counting on DOCSIS 3.1to help them out in the upstream without having to expand the return path.

So, it’s not yet clear how much demand there will be for Aurora’s new node solution. The answer will likely depend on how quickly consumer demand for upstream bandwidth keeps growing and how much upstream relief DOCSIS 3.1 winds up offering.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

DOShea 10/23/2013 | 9:24:25 PM
Re: In the interim... I wonder how new Aurora owner Pace will feel about this concept. Maybe they'll see it as an interesting point of differentiation.
albreznick 10/16/2013 | 5:22:01 PM
Re: In the interim... True. But it could be more than an interim solution because of all the upstream spectrum that would be gained. The key is whether cable operators want to go thru all the hassles and costs of doing mid-splits or would rather wait for DOCSIS 3.1 to come along in a year or two. Guess we'll see. 
DOShea 10/16/2013 | 4:56:13 PM
In the interim... Well, we are living in the age of on-demand bandwidth, though it does sound like something of an interim solution.
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