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Using a Lego Approach to Cable Node Upgrades

Jeff Baumgartner
10/22/2018
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Atlanta -- SCTE Cable-Tec Expo -- The cable industry is working on a templated, standardized way to create node housings that will let MSOs add upgraded and new components and technologies by simply snapping them in rather than possibly having take to swap out the whole thing.

In addition to saving time and money, that work could also help MSOs sidestep vendor lock-in and pave the way to a common node system that will allow MSOs to mix and match suppliers for the housings themselves as well as the modular components inside.

The resulting standard will pave the way for a system that allows for compatible modules that could be interfaced and snapped into the common node housings. Speaking here Monday at a pre-conference event focused on cable's distributed access architecture (DAA), Kevin Kwasny, principal engineer at Charter Communications Inc. , likened this to a "Lego approach."

If it's a success, that project, called the Generic Access Platform (GAP), could pave the way for future upgrades of current technologies and architectures, such as DOCSIS, and support newer ones that include PON, 5G, remote PHY and latency-sensitive edge computing systems.

The idea is to help operators save time and money as nodes become increasingly more valuable real estate for cable services. GAP is also coming on the scene as cable operators get ready to deploy a new wave of nodes that will be required as the HFC network becomes more distributed.

The move could loosen the hold that node vendors such as Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Casa Systems Inc. and Teleste Corp. have in today's cable networks. And while a new standard could further commoditize the node itself, it could open the door for these vendors and perhaps others that are knocking on the door, such as Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), to win business in cable networks where they aren't present today. (See In Cable First, WOW Distributes & Virtualizes the Access Network.)

When GAP goes from concept to a deployment reality is a moving target. The project is in working group mode and the industry is starting to think about how specifications work, Kwasny said, noting that the scope of those discussions includes the design of the housing as well as the materials of the housing.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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