Sizing Up the CCAP Players
While 2014 is looking to be a big deployment year for cable's super-dense, next-gen access platform, the Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP), 2013 is still expected to bear witness to a few limited rollouts.
With that in mind, vendors are already jockeying for position as operators start to roll out the CCAP, led by major cable operators such as Comcast Corp. (See What Comcast Learned From Trying Out CCAP.)
CCAP will put all of cable's services on one platform and push operators toward an all-IP world. It's also poised to reduce headend space requirements by 50 percent and provide power savings of up to 60 percent.
And, if you're a cable operator, CCAP's densities might save you money. For example, a recent Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider estimates that CCAP is poised to reduce Docsis QAM port pricing to about $400, from about $3,500 today. (See Amid the IP Video Tidal Wave, CCAP Offers a Lifeline.)
A new architecture also brings a chance for potential market-share grabs by edge QAM and cable modem termination system (CMTS) vendors. Although CCAP is based on CableLabs specifications, there's enough wiggle room to help vendors differentiate and set their own product strategies as they start to go after a CCAP market that's expected to be worth at least $1 billion. Some vendors are developing fully integrated CCAPs that combine the CMTS and edge QAM functions, while others are concentrating on "non-routing" CCAP devices that look like giant edge QAMs. Some are pursuing both.
Here's a roundup of how the known CCAP vendors are approaching the market.
Arris Group Inc.'s integrated CCAP hopes and dreams are resting on the E6000, an all-in-one device that will initially function like a super-dense CMTS as a "middle step" to CCAP. Arris intends to take the full step and bake edge QAM capabilities into the E6000 eventually, but, in the interim, the vendor will support that functionality by linking the E6000 to the Media Services Platform (MSP), a high-density edge QAM that came by way of the BigBand Networks acquisition. (See Arris Unleashes a CMTS Monster.) Casa Systems
Casa Systems Inc. has consistently trailed the pack of CMTS and edge QAM vendors, but the company could make up some ground as operators start to make their CCAP-buying decisions. Casa's first CCAP-focused play is the DS8x96, a high-density module that fits into its C10G CMTS and beefs up the device's Docsis port densities. It's working on a fully integrated CCAP that will add the video components. Company execs say field trials involving the CS8x96 should get under way by the early part of this year. Those trials will center on Docsis-only versions of the product for sure, but could add video to the testing once the software is ready. Cisco
Cisco Systems Inc. is the market-leading CMTS vendor, and it's not about to give up the high ground as the CCAP era gets underway. The initial phase of Cisco's plan is to bring CCAP-like capabilities to its flagship CMTS, the uBR10000, using two new cards that essentially double downstream capacity while quadrupling the chassis' processing capacity to 40Gbit/s. That product would then be linked to Cisco's high-density RF Gateway-10 edge QAM. Trials are planned for the current quarter with "several major" cable operators. Cisco's next-gen CCAP platform, the Converged Broadband Router, or cBR-8, is expected to show up by early 2014. (See Cisco Extends Bridge to CCAP and Cisco Says CCAP's Tipping Point is 1Gbit/s.) CommScope
CommScope Inc. is starting off with two non-routing CCAP products – the CSP 640 and CSP 1280 -- that omit the Docsis piece, and are partly born out of the company's 2011 acquisition of edge QAM specialist LiquidxStream Systems Inc. But the company is working with a still-unnamed partner to add Docsis into the mix. CommScope expects to introduce its all-in-one, integrated CCAP product by the fourth quarter of this year and be ready for deployments by early 2014. (See CommScope Puts Docsis on Its Roadmap.) Harmonic
Harmonic Inc. has been a top-notch edge QAM maker for years, but its CCAP strategy shows that the company has some grander ambitions in mind. The vendor, which has been hiring Docsis experts of late, has developed an integrated CCAP called the NSG Pro. Harmonic's already got some trials lined up, but expects to have the product ready by the first quarter of 2013. The first version will be a downstream-only version without the Docsis components. The vendor isn't saying when it will add Docsis to the NSG Pro, but Harmonic did demonstrate the device running a Docsis upstream line card at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Cable-Tec Expo last fall, so a post-prototype version shouldn't be too far behind. (See Harmonic Goes All-Out for CCAP and Harmoinc Lines Up CCAP Trials.) Motorola Home
Motorola Mobility LLC's Home unit has long been the third-largest CMTS player in terms of market share, but its proposed $2.35 billion sale to Arris makes it the wild card of the bunch. It's not yet known if Arris's work around the E6000 will completely supersede Moto's CCAP activities, or if Arris will try to hold on to or perhaps sell those assets. Motorola calls its integrated CCAP-in-progress the Video Services Platform (VSP). Moto's also working on a more distributed version that would link the CCAP "core" to a new class of dense edge QAMs, including Motorola's own Apex 3000. (See Hey, Motorola! Your CCAP Is Showing.) — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable