More MSOs Back Comcast's Big Box Project

Cablevision, Cox, Charter, Liberty Global, and Rogers are among those helping out with the evolving Converged Multiservice Access Platform (CMAP) specs

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

June 1, 2010

4 Min Read
More MSOs Back Comcast's Big Box Project

More cable operators and cable organizations are throwing their engineering weight behind Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s attempt to create a multi-MSO spec for a super-dense network access and routing device.

Cox Communications Inc. had been identified as one MSO providing input for the Converged Multiservice Access Platform (CMAP). Now others have signed on or are about to, including Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Charter Communications Inc. , Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), and Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI).

Comcast is in the process of concluding a similar agreement with the National Cable Television Cooperative Inc. (NCTC) , a corporation that serves as a programming and hardware purchasing organization for Tier 2 and 3 MSOs. Cable Europe Labs and CableLabs are also involved in the project as advisors.

"Our objective and our hope is that we'll have a multiple-MSO CMAP specification that will become an industry de facto standard," said Jorge Salinger, Comcast's VP of access architecture, who offered an update on the project last week during a Light Reading Cable Webinar on the CMAP and the MSO's broader Next Generation Access Architecture (NGAA) project. (An archive of the Webinar is available here until May 2011.)

The CMAP, a key component of Comcast's larger NGAA project, would combine edge QAM and cable modem termination system (CMTS) functions and also would aim to handle an anticipated wave of narrowcast services, including IPTV, voice, and high-speed data. It's being designed to reduce headend space and power consumption requirements while cutting down the overall costs per bit. (See Comcast Proposes Its God Box and Cox Adds Weight to Comcast's Big Box Project .)

It's already drawing interest and participation from suppliers including Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), and RGB Networks Inc. (See Vendors Plan for Comcast's 'God' Box .)

On last week's Webinar, Motorola showed how a fully integrated version of the CMAP could be implemented, while AlcaLu, Harmonic, and RGB weighed in on modular approaches that would separate CMAP functions such as the Packet Shelf (routing) and the Access Shelf (core processing).

Making it modular
The Modular-CMAP (M-CMAP) intends to offer a clear demarcation between the routing and access interface, and allow operators to pick from a wider range of vendors for those components than they can today with the modular cable modem termination system (M-CMTS), an architecture that physically breaks out the Docsis downstreams (using edge QAMs) and the upstreams (handled via the core CMTS), and uses a Docsis Timing Interface to synch up the clocks of those components.

An M-CMAP implementation could marry an Alcatel-Lucent Packet Shelf with Access Shelves from Harmonic and/or RGB, for example.

The M-CMAP would be an alternative to the relatively complicated M-CMTS, as well as an alternative to the Modular Headend Architecture (MHA), a CableLabs-specified system that has layed some groundwork toward universal edge QAMs that can share network resources across various services, including high-speed Internet and unicast, multicast, and broadcast video. (See MSOs Unite Against Telcos at the Headend.)

The CMAP hardware and functional specs were completed in March. Comcast is targeting to complete the modular interface spec in June and the configuration and management specs in July.

Here's a brief summary of the rest of Comcast's NGAA project:

Table 1: Beyond the CMAP




DMON: Downstream Monitor

Downstream probe that implements extensive network monitoring

Spec under development

NGOM: Next Generation Operations Manager

Streamlines the execution of spectrum surveillance, system proofs, plant alignment/balancing and sweep, and content integrity monitoring

Specs in planning stage

HSG: High Spectrum Gateway

Overlays high-bandwidth upstream and downstream transmission

Device in conceptual design phase

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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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