Wireless speeds into the lead at Casa Systems

Casa Systems' road to diversification took another turn in Q4 2020, as wireless rose up to become the company's top bread winner.

Wireless, at $50.4 million, contributed 42% of revenue in Q4, followed by its legacy cable business ($48.1 million, or 40% of revenues), and its budding fixed telco business ($22.1 million, or 18%). Total revenues for the quarter rose 7%, to $120.5 million, on a year-over-year basis.

In Q4, Casa's main driver in the category was fixed wireless access products – a category that includes Casa's 2019 acquisition of NetComm – focused on 4G, CBRS as well as some initial work around 5G.

Casa ended the quarter with 28 wireless customers worldwide. A "major new customer," yet unnamed, also launched a 5G millimeter wave fixed wireless access device from the vendor. Casa also netted some contribution from its wireless software and packet core products.

Wireless is expected to remain Casa's main driver for growth throughout 2021, Scott Bruckner, Casa's CFO, said in an interview. The vendor, which recently joined the Telecom Infra Project's OpenBNG initiative, is also sizing up opportunities involving the C-band following the recently completed auction for a coveted swath of midband spectrum.

Cable stays steady

Casa expects its cable business to remain relatively stable in 2021, but the company is not yet counting on it to drive growth amid continued uncertainty about MSO capex spending in the near term and how aggressively they will move ahead with distributed access architectures and other next-gen network initiatives.

For 2020, Casa's cable business did see solid hardware sales as operators split nodes to boost the amount of capacity that could be delivered to service groups amid a rise in data usage driven by the pandemic.

"If the industry does go into positive direction on capex or go with more node split, we will benefit from that," Casa CEO Jerry Guo said. "On the other hand, we are not counting on that to grow our business."

Casa is seeing a small degree of cable activity stemming from a distributed access architecture (DAA) that pushes more of the PHY layer out toward the edges of the network, along with some activity centered on the vendor's virtual Converged Cable Access Platform (vCCAP) core. Casa has 14 orders in this category from operators worldwide, along with several more trials that are now underway, but "we're not sure how fast that will ramp up," Guo said.

Casa is also starting a process to make its network products DOCSIS 4.0-ready, but Guo acknowledges that the timing of final products that meet the new CableLabs specifications will be determined by the availability of new D4.0 silicon.

Casa is also hopeful that it will benefit from the recently concluded phase I auction for the multi-billion-dollar Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Though the vendor's traditional operator customers had little to do with the Connect America Fund, that could change with RDOF, given solid participation of cable operators such as Charter, Casa's emerging telco wireline business, and its lineup of fixed wireless products.

Guo said Casa is already in talks with some customers about RDOF plans, and expects the company's fixed wireless CPE and packet core products to play a key role with certain RDOF auction winners.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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