By Jonathan Ruff, Senior Director, Technical Marketing, ARRIS
For many operators, the gigabit evolution begins with the shift from DOCSIS 3.0 to DOCSIS 3.1. But that move represents a change not only in the protocol itself, but in the approach to architecting their entire DOCSIS delivery chain—from the headend to the outside plant and home gateway components.
Operators are choosing from many new approaches based on the nature of their deepening fiber deployments and their desire to make more efficient use of headend facilities in addressing the increasing demand for new gigabit services.
ARRIS has a unique perspective on the aggregate decisions that these operators face, due to our pioneering work in DOCSIS 3.1 deployments and the market-leading success of our E6000 CCAP platform. Our operator customers look to us for evolutionary pathways that enable them to make full use of their HFC plant and fiber deployments, while building on their installed base of E6000s and their outside plant.
In our close collaboration with these customers on network evolution, one of the biggest challenges we see is that there is no one decision or path to choose from that is expected to reach the market in the next few years. In other words, operators will choose different approaches. As a result, many opt to support multiple approaches in their networks: HFC with Node+0 splits, Remote PHY or Remote MACPHY, Remote PHY shelf, Full Duplex DOCSIS, RFoG, Node PON, EPON and GPON, etc. And they pace the cadence of their evolution based on how their subscriber usage evolves and the availability of capital investment. Some operators plan to spend as much as $1B in each of the next few years to address the demand they are experiencing.
These are some of the most important factors that impact decision making for operators:
- Headend Capacity – where space, power and other facility considerations constrain the ability to add more equipment, operators have two choices: seek denser more power efficient solutions or move capabilities and functionality into the outside plant. This is one of the cases for Remote PHY.
- Economics – CAPEX and OPEX costs come into play as operators replace old equipment (nodes, amplifiers, and headend equipment) and move to support 1.2GHz and 85Mhz return expansion. Where this requires new equipment purchases and truck rolls, it creates an imperative to minimize the number of times outside plant has to be accessed while making service groups smaller to cope with the increased bandwidth demands.
- Greenfield – with new housing developments, it makes economic sense to put in FTTH from day one, especially when replacing the coax cable to a home with fiber can cost as much as $1,000 per home passed. PON becomes the logical choice here, especially when the system can still support DPOE, the DOCSIS specification for cable modem provisioning on the headend. Similarly, for urban Multi-dwelling units where fiber can be pulled past a high density of subscriber dwelling units, PON may be more efficient from a capacity and cost perspective.
- Environment – depending on the socio-economics of neighborhoods, pulling the intelligent, expensive components back into the secured environments and using lower cost outside plant systems can allow operators to manage failures and loss while offering similar traffic and service level performance.
- Timing/Availability – the range of approaches will be impacted by silicon availability, finalization of specifications, and levels of testing required to verify deployment capabilities
ARRIS offers operators an extremely flexible approach to the evolution of their networks. For example, our E6000 chassis offers software options and upgrades, new cards such as the DCAM2, UCAM2, RSM2, and EPFM (EPON Fiber Module), and a modular upgrade path for the OM6000 and NC4000 to Remote PHY. This enables operators to select their ideal architecture as they look to support multi-gigabit data services and migrate from QAM to IP Video services without having to make massive changes to their provisioning and headend systems.
In many cases (for example, DOCSIS 3.0 to DOCSIS 3.1 support, I-CCAP to RPHY support), the transition from one stage to the next can be accomplished with simple software upgrades, permitting the operator to activate the change in a convenient, cost-effective fashion. All of these attributes of ARRIS’s solution set allow operators to make decisions as their strategy determines the optimal time for them, their subscribers, and their financials.
The E6000 can support various combined configurations of these HFC, RFoG, and Fiber capabilities— allowing operators to deploy mixed architectures such as I-CCAP and Remote PHY, or I-CCAP and EPON, for example. As deployment proposals evolve to include Full Duplex DOCSIS, Extended Spectrum DOCSIS etc., the E6000 can evolve with each new stage, thanks to its modular physical architecture and its software upgradability, allowing it take advantage of new capabilities that increase the number of subscribers served and total data traffic capacity per chassis.
It’s clear that the demand for bandwidth is only going to increase in the near future, and having a flexible platform like the ARRIS E6000 platform that can be modified wherever it makes strategic and financial sense is extremely valuable. Our solutions are also designed to expand to support future demands. Indeed, the ability to quickly support and adapt to all of tomorrow’s technology choices puts operators who have deployed and are deploying the ARRIS E6000 platform in a leadership position for the future.