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Global broadband access equipment revenues dip 15% in Q1 – Dell'Oro

Amid a pandemic that took hold in March and disrupted supply chains throughout the Asia-Pacific, the global broadband access equipment market took it on the chin in Q1 2020. Total revenues in the sector dropped 15%, to $2.5 billion, versus the year-ago quarter, according to fresh data from Dell'Oro Group.

The situation was even worse for the cable access "concentrator" market, which includes DOCSIS infrastructure elements such as Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) cores and chassis, virtual CCAP licensing and distributed access architecture (DAA) nodes and modules. Revenues in that category declined 22%, to $211 million, driven by a slowdown in CCAP license purchases in North America.

The good news is that total shipments of DOCSIS 3.1 consumer premises equipment (CPE) rose to 5.8 million, representing 67% of total cable CPE shipments. That number is poised to reach 70% by the end of 2020, predicts Jeff Heynen, senior research director, broadband access and home networking at Dell'Oro.

The rise in D3.1 CPE is partly attributed to devices supporting upgraded DOCSIS 3.1 networks and to provide a degree of future-proofing for coming DOCSIS 3.1 upgrades, says Heynen. Notably, the initial wave of DOCSIS 3.1 modems and gateways are hybrids that can support both D3.1 and D3.0 traffic.

Pricing on D3.1 CPE is also coming down. While exact numbers vary by operator and purchase volumes, Heynen estimates that DOCSIS 3.1 devices are in the range of 10% to 15% more expensive than their DOCSIS 3.1 counterparts.

Heynen also expects cable access revenues to rebound a bit in the second quarter as cable operators boost upstream capacity by purchasing additional channel capacity on traditional CCAPs and move ahead with mid-split and high-split projects that expand the amount of spectrum dedicated for the cable network upstream.

Cable remote PHY deployments remain slow today but could pick up as operators begin to touch amplifiers and other parts of the network for future expansions of the cable network upstream. In those cases, "you're almost required to upgrade to remote PHY at some point," explains Heynen.

Q1 didn't produce a major swing in cable access market share among CommScope/Arris, Casa Systems and Cisco Systems. Harmonic, meanwhile, has already warned that some cable network virtualization projects have been pushed out a bit as cable operators reassessed their near-term network-facing priorities during the pandemic.

With respect to the fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) market, Dell'Oro found that total PON ONT (optical network terminal) unit shipments dropped 15% year-over-year as new installations were hindered by the pandemic. However, OLT (optical line terminal) ports were relatively flat over that period, indicating that there is sustained investment being placed in FTTP infrastructure in regions such as Europe, says Heynen.

He expects that activity centered on the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) could provide some lift to the FTTP sector in the US next year.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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