Cable-Tec Expo 2012: 6 Big Takeaways

2012-10-24 16:22:30

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Cable-Tec Expo -- About 9,200 cable guys and gals descended on the Sunshine State last week to bask in the glow of cable's latest technologies and engineering initiatives.
The unveiling of Docsis 3.1 was the big news, but represented just one of the many stops on our adventure around the floor and at sessions. Here's a roundup of important takeaways we encountered along the beaten track, as well as from a few side excursions.
Docsis 3.1 is on a fast trackMake no mistake -- the cable industry wants to get the Docsis 3.1 train running at full speed as soon as possible. The hope is to have the specs done by next year, with products showing up by 2014. As product timeframes go, operators believe Docsis 3.1 CPE will show up first, followed by network downstream support, and then the tricky upstream component. That approach, the engineers hope, will let MSOs seed the market with hybrid Docsis 3.0/Docsis 3.1 gear before they start lighting up the new 3.1 spectrum, which will rely on orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM). Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) SVP of Broadband Engineering and Technology Howard Pfeffer said the hope is to get a "critical mass" of hybrid modems in the field before they are flipped to support the new OFDM-based spectrum, but added that it will take an engineering and business modeling exercise to discover exactly what that inflection point will be.
The new hybrid devices will of course cost more than today's Docsis 3.0 gear, but the cost delta between 3.0 and new 3.1 modems will be "significantly smaller" than it was when modems moved from 2.0 to 3.0, said Jorge Salinger, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s VP of access architecture. Meanwhile, Matt Schmitt, director of Docsis specifications at CableLabs , believes that the new hybrid devices will cost less on a per-bit basis. That means a 3.0-only modem would be more expensive to produce using 6MHz-channel bonding than it would to create like-for-like speeds using a Docsis 3.1 modem that rely on OFDM.
And why does the cable industry believe it will need Docsis 3.1, a platform that will target speeds of at least 10 Gbit/s downstream and 1 Gbit/s upstream? Cox Communications Inc. Senior Director of Network Architecture Jeff Finkelstein offers his thoughts on what sort of services and apps could be well-suited for Docsis 3.1 down the road.
The CCAP race is onJust about every vendor with a stake in the game for cable's next-generation access platform had pre-standard Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) gear out in the open for all to see. Deployments are expected to get under way next year, and the vendors -- from Arris Group Inc.(Nasdaq: ARRS), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Motorola Mobility, to CommScope Inc. ,Casa Systems Inc. and Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) -- say they'll be ready. And the new wave of anticipated deployments are getting everyone's competitive juices flowing, as most vendors were happy to point out the high points of their entries and where they think their riv
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