Heavy Reading Research

Looking for Convergence? Use a CMAP

Throughout cable's digital history, cable TV and broadband Internet services developed in ways that were largely separated. In one silo is digital TV, formatted in MPEG-2 and modulated for delivery on the cable system through quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM). In another silo is data Internet service, which uses Docsis specifications and is managed by the cable modem termination system (CMTS). Inside headends and hubs, cable systems have been adding racks upon racks of QAM and CMTS boxes, each with more ports and more wiring, and each requiring more power and air conditioning.

The separation between video and data does not end there: The two services, as well as digital phone, remain largely in separate silos throughout cable operations, organizational structures, business cultures and product lines.

Meanwhile, most of today's cable transport systems are straining to handle an increasing volume of Internet traffic and an expanding array of video services. IP video is consuming cable bandwidth and is expected to grow dramatically. Multiple system operators (MSOs) are transitioning their cable systems to all-digital delivery and a potential migration to all-IP delivery, which requires flexible management of an expanding array of converging services.

Enter the converged multiservice access platform (CMAP). As explained in the new Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider, "CMAP: A Milestone on the Road to Cable Convergence," CMAP combines CMTS and edge QAM functionality into a single platform inside the headend.

Spurred by product specifications created by Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), CMAP is designed to foster the development of a single box that provides higher density and lower cost. It is viewed as a way to future-proof cable systems for the increasing onslaught of IP video traffic and opportunities for more advanced services.

The Insider analyzes CMAP, the goals behind it, and the implications for cable operators and suppliers. Included is a look at the CMAP activity of five leading suppliers of CMTS and edge QAM technology. MSOs are getting involved in various ways, with CMAP trials planned this year and initial deployments expected next year.

On its surface, CMAP is a logical extension of existing headend technology that merges two capabilities, CMTS and edge QAM, into one. It handles cable's plumbing, like a fixture that funnels cold water and hot water into one pipe.

But CMAP also represents much more, the report argues. It is an important step toward eliminating the barriers between video and data capabilities that have kept them in separate silos. As video and data technologies merge, a similar integration is expected to occur across cable system operations, organizational structures and business cultures. CMAP supports an expansion and integration of advanced video, voice and data services for cable customers.

— Craig Leddy, Contributing Analyst, Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider

The report, CMAP: A Milestone on the Road to Cable Convergence, is available as part of an annual subscription (6 bimonthly issues) to Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider, priced at $1,595. Individual reports are available for $900. For more information, or to subscribe, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/cable.

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