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October 31, 2012
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The CCAP initiative: Product begins to appear

Pay TV operators around the world, especially those with broadband networks, are looking for flexibility as they migrate to an IP video endgame. In the U.S., the cable industry (namely, Comcast) first began talking publicly in 2010 about a platform that could overcome space and powering constraints and help prepare the industry for an era of IP video by pulling from two existing devices: the universal (video and data) edge QAM modulator and the cable modem termination system (CMTS).

Separate initiatives by Comcast and Time Warner Cable, which merged in 2011 to become the Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP), have to date yielded a somewhat uneven flow, with devices touting various numbers of QAM channels per port appearing thisyear at the Cable Show in Boston and Cable-Tec Expo in Orlando. Here, in alphabetical order, is a brief summary of progress to date:

ARRIS. In Orlando, ARRIS unveiled its E6000 Converged Edge Router. The company touts the density, cost-effectiveness, integration, fully redundant design, five-nines reliability and IPv6-ready nature of the E6000, sharing many of these qualities with the C4 CMTS. Its downstream cable access module (CAM) supports 256 QAM channels (or 128 in first release) across eight physical ports. The upstream CAM provides 96 receivers across 24 micro coaxial (MCX) connector ports.

Casa Systems. The first view of the module featuring Integrated (I)-CCAP functionality to its C10G CMTS occurred in Boston. Casa said this module delivers 96 channels per port, including 32 for narrowcast and 64 for broadcast services. A chassis with six cards could deliver up to 2,000 independent downstream DOCSIS and MPEG channels, or including multi-cast, more than 6,000.

Cisco. At the Cable Show, Cisco showed off its DS384 line card for its RF Gateway 10 edge QAM platform. Cisco says this eight-port line card support up to 128 QAM channels per port and that an RF Gateway with 10 cards could support 3,840 narrowcast downstream channels (384 maximum per port). In May Cisco also announced that its CCAP roadmap includes upstream enhancements to its uBR 10000 CMTS, leading up to an integrated CCAP device.

The CommScope 14 RU Converged Services Platform (CSP) is another entrant in the CCAP space.

Commscope. The company’s Converged Services Platform (CSP), debuted at Cable-Tec Expo, is based on the edge QAM solution that it acquired from LiquidXStreme in 2011.  The two versions of the platform include the SCP 640, a 9 rack unit (RU) model with support for maximum of 9,600 downsteam QAM channels and the 14 RU CSP 1280, supporting up to 19,200 downstream QAM channels.

Harmonic: The edge QAM technology pioneer, which showcased its NSG Pro at Cable-Tec Expo, said the device meets CCAP specs and can provide more than 10,000 QAM channels in a 9 RU chassis (compared to 648 QAM channels per two RU chassis in the vendor’s HectoQAM.) (For more, see previous coverage.)

Motorola. The company’s APEX 3000, a high-density universal edge QAM modulator, arrived in late 2011, making appearances this year in Boston, Cologne (ANGA) and Orlando. Fully redundant with hot-swappable blades, this 32-port, 4 RU platform supports up to 1,538 QAM channels. Operators can scale up from 16 channels per port to the full 48.

Given that these equipment manufacturers have been asked to map existing and separate technologies onto a customer-specific matrix, it is not surprising that there is considerable diversity in the equipment represented here. Some are positioned as bridges to the CCAP future; most are modular, but one (Casa) has jumped to the integrated implementation; most tout downstream capabilities, though at least one (ARRIS) has included upstream, as well.

With no third-party yet offering a CCAP seal of approval, operators themselves are likely to validate these devices as they become generally available and fit into evolving infrastructures built to accommodate new patterns of video and data traffic.