Here’s one of the big questions facing cable operators today – can their existing HFC infrastructure, built on a proprietary analog network, meet their evolving technical and business requirements?
Once an integral component of the cable access architecture, the proprietary analog network is now the weakest link. It limits an operator’s ability to scale to consumer bandwidth demands, it’s expensive to own and operate, and the racks of equipment required to convert digital services for analog optical transmission – are costly to manage, power and cool. They also occupy some very valuable real estate in the hub site.
Legacy CMTS platforms add to the problem. To compete with pure fiber, cable operators must scale bandwidth to meet the needs of the market. In the past, they relied on two “tried-and-true” techniques to achieve this end – segmentation and spectrum management. Unfortunately, network segmentation to improve bandwidth distribution has all but reached a physical limitation with legacy CMTS platforms. And adding more “boxes” in already cramped hub sites is not the answer. These kinds of network changes are complex, expensive and don’t solve the long-term problem.
The HFC architecture, however, is not all bad. Remember, that the “F” in HFC stands for fiber and wonderful things can happen when networks convert from analog to digital using fiber. Costs are lowered, performance is enhanced, management is improved through telemetry and automation, which together can be used to simplify every step of the operational lifecycle.
Today, Cisco announced the availability of its Infinite Broadband solution, which uses Remote PHY technology to overcome the limitations of analog fiber and break through the HFC bottleneck. In its most basic form, Remote PHY unlocks major bandwidth increases in existing access networks, allowing cable operators to transform their infrastructures to simpler all digital networks, reduce space and power requirements in the hub, and enable higher bandwidth for each subscriber.
How does it work? Together, Remote PHY and DOCSIS® 3.1, two CableLabs standards, expand the capacity of cable HFC plants. With the Cisco® cBR-8 converged broadband router and GS7000 node platforms, Remote PHY reduces power, cooling and space requirements, all resulting in significant total cost of ownership (TCO) benefits. These technologies are also the foundation for Cisco’s virtualization and Full Duplex DOCSIS strategy.
Cisco’s Infinite Broadband solution has two key differentiators that deliver tremendous value to cable operators. The first is the RPHY platform’s open, standardized software, which allows cable operators to select an Remote PHY device (RPD) vendor that best meets their needs, without being locked into a single vendor’s proprietary solution. Cisco contributed their open software to the Cable Labs OpenRPD forum and its ecosystem of RPD vendors in 2016.
To help facilitate better interoperability among different vendors participating in the OpenRPD ecosystem, Cisco has launched a program to allow RPD vendors to test their interoperability with the Cisco cBR-8 Remote PHY core. This testing will be conducted at a third-party industry lab and will follow specific acceptance testing plans. Ultimately, this work will accelerate time-to-market of Remote PHY architectures. Among the companies that have committed to participate in the initial rounds of testing are VECTOR Technologies, BKtel networks, and Teleste.
The second key differentiator is Cisco’s RPHY deployment automation software based on model-driven network configuration protocol (NETCONF) and YANG technology. Cisco’s vendor-agnostic cable automation software ensures that the new Remote PHY devices can be easily and automatically provisioned, resulting in significant savings over existing manual provisioning solutions.
As Sean Welch, vice president and general manager of the Service Provider Infrastructure Group recently noted, “RPHY is the next step in the evolution to an all-IP network that is faster, more scalable, and simpler to operate. RPHY provides a foundation for further network evolution, such as Infinite DOCSIS and Cloud Native technologies, allowing our customers to reduce the total cost of ownership, while keeping their cable networks competitive for the future.”
If you’re in Cologne this week for the ANGA COM 2017 event, we invite you to stop by Hall #7, Booth E10 to see our cable access evolution path across key technology areas including infrastructure, virtualization, management and automation in action.