As of this writing, no certifcations have been
announced, but that may change by the time you read
this. And Expo is a logical place to make such announcements. Any way you cut it, DOCSIS 3. 1 will fgure strongly at the show. Arguably, compliant T&M gear is most
important to get in the early stages, mainly to qualify the
plant, then CPE to seed the network for turn-up once the
network gear is in place.
With a few exceptions, CCAP has largely moved from
new product introductions to deployment and network
integration. For example, CCAP deployment fgures
strongly in Time Warner Cable’s “TWC Maxx” network
upgrades, as well as its increased Internet speeds and
transition to all-digital video. Other operators are taking
similar approaches, of course. If you hear about a cable
operator increasing its Internet speeds, it’s a safe bet that
CCAP is behind it.
The question about CCAP–and network architec-
ture generally–is where it’s headed in the next few years.
Efforts are already underway to create virtual versions
(and not just of CCAP) that can run on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers rather than dedicated boxes.
That’s still some way from becoming mainstream, but it
does put the future of dedicated gear in question.
Which brings us to the next item...
As previously noted, there’s a defnite move toward
virtualizing network functions in software in the cable
industry, giving rise to the tongue-twisting abbreviation
“NFV.” A few years ago, Comcast CTO Tony Werner
said there’s very little that cable operators do that
can’t be moved into software and that his company
was hiring large numbers of software engineers. The
benefts of such an approach are clear: Given equivalent
functionality, COTS servers and frmware updates are
less expensive and more fexible than forklift upgrades of
dedicated gear. The trick is “equivalent functionality,” and
not everyone is convinced that’s a given. Dedicated gear
isn’t going away any time soon, but the trend is defnitely
toward virtualization wherever it’s feasible.
Cloud-based technologies have considerable appeal,
especially in business services and hosted services.
Services hosted in the cloud let a cash-strapped small-
er operator offer products such as switched digital
video (SDV) that they otherwise couldn’t afford to, often
on a pay-as-you grow basis. For business services
customers, cloud-based and fully managed products
such as unifed communications (UC) offer the same
price appeal, but with the added beneft of not hav-
ing to monkey with it; they can focus on their core busi-
ness without having to also become their own PBX or
Some other technology trends at Expo center on WiFi,
multiscreen video, advanced user interfaces (UIs), and
improved video search and recommendations.
WiFi and multiscreen are interesting in a couple ways,
even beyond the fact that the former largely enables the
latter. Both have moved from “Oh, neat” to mainstream in
a remarkably short time, more or less in parallel with the
development of tablets and smartphones. Both also are
by and large still value-adds, though the industry is working hard to fnd effective ways to monetize them. WiFi
faces a potential threat from LTE-U interference in the 5
GHz band; however, LTE-U isn’t fnalized yet, much less
deployed, and CableLabs and the NCTA are keeping a
close eye on it.
Advanced UI and content discovery also are somewhat symbiotic. The intelligence for both–often based on
HTML5–typically resides in the network or cloud rather
than the set-top box, which can save operators considerable cash, and both aim to solve the paradoxical problem of fnding something to watch in a sea of hundreds of
channels. Research from several sources indicates that
most pay TV viewers regularly watch only 17 or so channels, and improved UI and search/recommendations
technology are ways to increase that number. The importance that operators attach to this problem was underlined in May when Charter Communications teamed up
with ARRIS to buy UI vendor ActiveVideo.
In all likelihood, the biggest topic of discussion at Expo
won’t actually be technical; it’ll be industry consolidation.
Seems like everybody’s buying everybody else lately,
both on the operator side and the vendor side, and it’s
hard to see when it’ll calm down. Surely it’ll stop before
we reach the point of having just one operator and one