While progress continues with the Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP, formerly CMAP and Cesar), there are still many questions surrounding when large scale deployments will begin, and how to continue meeting new bandwidth demands in the present while upgrading IP infrastructure for the future. One of the major debates has been whether operators should move forward with an integrated CCAP architecture, or a modular one. The industry has largely settled on an integrated approach; however, even that decision is complicated by questions around how to deploy an integrated platform.
One of the options for operators to consider is a distributed CCAP deployment. Not to be confused with the modular option, a distributed deployment transmits DOCSIS channels to an external edge QAM via M-CMTS. A distributed deployment still paves the way for an integrated CCAP architecture, but it also provides flexibility in the migration from traditional data and video infrastructures to the new CCAP model of delivery. Given today’s demand for narrowcast video channels, there is strong incentive for operators to install high-density, chassis-based edge QAMs in select markets. However, operators typically won’t need the full capacity available in these new hardware installations, and with an extra 8-16 QAM channels per port left unused, there is room to reallocate a portion of the total QAMs available to DOCSIS traffic in the future.
This is where the idea of a flexible migration comes into play. For systems that require more narrowcast video channels today, the distributed CCAP approach lets operators target capacity upgrades with new edge QAMs that can still be used in future CCAP upgrades. Those targeted edge QAM deployments allow operators to support more VOD content, a greater number of switched digital video channels, and new network-based DVR trials – all of which have the potential to drive new revenue and keep cable providers ahead of competitive services.
For many cable operators, CCAP will be the next step on the path to all-IP delivery. How the industry gets from here to there, however, will depend on the specific needs of each individual cable system. Taking a distributed CCAP approach to deployments is a logical option in many cases, and one that provides flexibility for meeting today’s needs as well as tomorrow’s.