Author: Jeff Walker, Director of CMTS Product Marketing
The merging of Comcast’s CMAP blueprint with Time Warner Cable’s CESAR project produced the brand new CCAP concept earlier this year – the Converged Cable Access Platform. The goal of CCAP is to marry edge QAM and CMTS functions in a single system in order to combine resources for video and data delivery. It’s a transition step en route to an all-IP world, but there’s a big question attached. Who, among cable operators, is ready for the CCAP vision?
In the US, everyone we’ve talked to among our cable customers is interested in what CCAP has to offer. The key technical innovation of CCAP is “Direct Digital Synthesis” (DDS), which permits all or almost all downstream channels to a service group to be modulated on a single EQAM port. DDS does indeed offer potential cost savings by combining EQAM modulation for video and data channels. However, we expect that while some MSOs will move forward with Converged Cable Access Platform trials and deployments, others will defer widespread CCAP deployment until the pace of a transition to all-IP video delivery is more clear. Beyond the technical hurdles, there are serious organizational challenges as well to widespread CCAP deployment. The video and data business units of an MSO traditionally operate very independently of one another. With different established product lines, short-term business objectives, management staff, and more, these two groups do not come together easily. We believe that a successful CCAP implementation must be economically deployable for either video or data service, and not necessarily depend on aggregating both services for its economic justification.
Also from an organizational perspective, there’s the issue of how the Converged Cable Access Platform can be rolled out across an operator’s entire footprint. Many cable systems are conglomerations of old networks, upgraded infrastructure and acquired assets. In addition, the demands of individual subscriber service groups within cable systems differ based on factors like demographics and geography. For those operators moving forward with CCAP, the transition will have to take place one headend at a time.
To date, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cox have all publicly signed off on new CableLabs DOCSIS specifications for CCAP. As far as timelines go, we could see the first CCAP trials as early as this year built on interim products now entering the market. Full production environment trials will start in 2012. After that, assuming technical and organizational challenges have been met, deployments will happen at whatever rate capital budgets allow. Increasing demand for VOD services and over-the-top video, which increases the requirement for narrowcast channels, will help to drive MSO capital budget priorities towards a CCAP approach.