When the cable industry first conceived the Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP), the market drivers included a growing demand for high speed data (HSD) services, as well as video on demand (VOD) and switched digital video (SDV). In addition, CCAP was driven by a strong motivation to simplify the architecture and reduce the costs of broadband and video service delivery. These services are all supported by QAM-based technology in the headend and leverage similar architectures, presenting a compelling case to combine broadband and video delivery into a single platform.
While these drivers remain largely intact, they are joined by a new set of compelling reasons for service providers to bring MPEG video capabilities into the CCAP platform. These new drivers include the need for improved video service resiliency, energy efficiency, and hub floor space utilization. In addition, edge QAM functionality integration helps service providers streamline the path to a new era of advanced services through fiber deep deployments, distributed access architectures and IPTV delivery. When combined, the reasons to migrate all of those services to a single platform create a compelling argument for convergence with CCAP.
Improving video service resiliency
With the renewed focus service providers are applying to customer satisfaction, it is becoming increasingly important for them to improve the reliability of the video services they deliver. But until now, most service providers have deployed their video edge QAMs in partial or non-redundant configurations. This means that if a component fails, there can be a severe impact to video services and noticeable customer outages.
With CCAP, service providers can deploy the platform using a redundant configuration such that there is no single point of failure. This helps ensure that all services, including MPEG video services, are fully protected. This helps service providers deliver a more reliable service, reduce the frequency of costly outages and maintain higher customer satisfaction levels.
Meeting industry goals for improved efficiency
Embodied by the SCTE’s Energy 2020 initiative, the cable industry has set aggressive goals to significantly reduce energy consumption and facilities footprints by the end of this decade. The goals of Energy 2020 include reducing energy costs by 25% on a unit basis and optimizing technical facilities and datacenter footprints by 20%. These stringent new standards present a significant opportunity for CCAP convergence.
By delivering both DOCSIS® and video services on a single CCAP platform, service providers can achieve significant efficiency improvements. In addition to reducing the space and power requirements for separate edge QAMs, splitters, combiners and router ports, integrated CCAP deployments can result in a 30% power savings and a 50% increase in service group density. These efficiency gains can create an immediate impact on the SCTE’s goals of achieving over $1 billion per year in cost avoidance measures by the year 2020. Additional floor space and power savings can also be achieved as service providers leverage convergence to enable the highly efficient distributed access architectures of tomorrow.
Enabling next generation architectures
Some operators will continue to focus on centralized access architecture (CAA), and deploy dense CCAP platforms in their headend and hub locations. Others may choose to migrate parts of their network to a distributed access architecture (DAA). For those service providers, CCAP convergence is a vital stepping stone to the advanced, efficient architectures that have become core to their network evolution strategies. For those operators planning for DAA, the migration to N+0 fiber deep, remote PHY and remote CCAP is made more efficient, more scalable and more economical when preceded by the deployment of a converged CCAP solution.
Increasing competition is leading many service providers to upgrade some parts of their HFC plants by pushing fiber closer to the home. These fiber deep architectures are typically a leapfrog in the natural evolution of the HFC network, where individual fiber nodes are segmented on an as needed basis, and the number of homes served per fiber node is reduced from ~500 to ~64. This requires many more fiber nodes to be deployed in the outside plant, which, in turn, places a significant strain on the headend and hub sites that serve these network segments. The resulting 4 to 8x increase in equipment needed in these locations, such as CMTS devices and video edge QAMs, makes these locations a perfect fit for the benefits of bringing edge QAMs into the CCAP chassis, since it makes little sense to purchase additional standalone edge QAMs when the service can be performed on the same CCAP port.
As service providers move some of their networks toward remote PHY and remote CCAP implementations, the benefits of performing an interim step of converging the different services become more evident. By converging video edge QAM resources into the CCAP chassis before moving to these distributed architectures, service providers can begin to deliver their full service lineup from headend to node over a single fiber. Combining this step with an upgrade to digital optics in the outside plant can mean a 5x improvement in network capacity, while providing an architecture that is built to evolve to remote PHY and remote CCAP later on.
Migrating to a full remote PHY or remote CCAP architecture can deliver significant rack space and energy savings in the headend, as well as substantial growth in the capacity that can be offered to the subscriber. But transitioning to this architecture is significantly less efficient without first converging the DOCSIS and video services into an integrated CCAP architecture. By bringing the video edge QAM into the CCAP chassis before migrating to a remote architecture, service providers can avoid the complexity and inefficiency of creating and maintaining separate video and DOCSIS nodes.
Supporting the IPTV migration
For many service providers, the coming transition to IPTV is a deterrent to integrating video on the CCAP platform. After all, once all video is flowing over IP, MPEG video only tuners will be a thing of the past. However, it is important to remember that most service providers will not move to IPTV for all customers at the same time. It is simply too expensive and complex to replace every set top box at one time. The transition will be a gradual one, and require both MPEG and IP video to be supported in the same network for quite some time. In this case, integrating video edge QAM resources into the CCAP chassis can help establish a foundation for unified video delivery throughout this transition, while easing the evolution to all IP video delivery.
By bringing video edge QAM resources into the CCAP chassis, all video services can be launched and managed using a single platform. This brings consistency and simplicity to video service management, while unlocking new levels of efficiency. In addition, as more customers are converted to IPTV, the video edge QAM resources can be easily converted to DOCSIS channels, enabling service providers to scale up IPTV capacity while scaling down video QAM capacity. This process is a simple matter of changing the license type from QAM video to DOCSIS and making some simple configuration changes. Because these changes are made in the software realm, the gradual transition to IPTV can be a seamless one.
For some service providers, converged CCAP is thought of as an unnecessary step in the network evolution process. This can be the case for several reasons. Many have all the video QAM resources they’ll ever need, and they don’t consider purchasing new ones a wise investment. Others view this shift as complex, since managing video and DOCSIS QAM channels on one platform requires a change in organizational structures and roles. And for a few operators, the upcoming shift toward IPTV simply means the end of the video QAM.
However, when we view the many reasons for integrating video edge QAM resources into today’s CCAP devices, the case is more compelling than ever. Integrating video edge QAM channels can improve service resiliency, provide significant space and power savings and bring service providers a step closer to meeting the industry’s new goals for efficiency. Moreover, doing so is a critical step in the network evolution process, providing the foundation for the transition to N+0 fiber deep, remote PHY, remote CCAP and even IPTV.
While the shift to integrated video edge QAM resources requires an investment, it is an investment in efficiency and a stepping stone to the architectures of the future. In addition, there are several operational advantages to deploying integrated edge QAM that can improve the overall reliability of the access network, and turn the organizational challenges of transitioning from isolated to integrated DOCSIS and video management into strong advantages. We will explore these operational and organizational advantages in an upcoming article.
ARRIS Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: ARRS) is a world leader in entertainment and communications technology. Our innovations combine hardware, software, and services across the cloud, network, and home to power TV and Internet for millions of people around the globe. The people of ARRIS collaborate with the world’s top service providers, content providers, and retailers to advance the state of our industry and pioneer tomorrow’s connected world. Together, we are inventing the future. For more information, visit www.arris.com.
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