Technology Limitations: Today’s Cable Access Network

Today, cable operators support a broad range of last-mile networks — fiber, PON, and Ethernet. They’d like to use their substantial network assets to introduce new offerings and expand their business models, however with the current cable network infrastructure it can be more difficult to compete with fiber-only competitors. Although the HFC cable plant has continued to operate and scale, based on some savvy investments that transformed it into a full-service “everything pipe,” the limitations of yesterday’s access technologies are becoming hard to overcome.

The fundamental challenge is that cable access networks were originally purpose-built for consumer broadcast TV and Internet services and offer little flexibility to support new services and revenue models. Meanwhile, IP traffic volume continues to explode. According to the Cisco VNI Index, by 2020, global IP traffic to triple from the volume seen in 2015, and we can expect IP video traffic to account for 82 percent of all IP traffic, up from the 70 percent we see today.

The Analog Network & Legacy Integrated CMTS (I-CMTS) Platforms

Underpinning the technical and business challenges facing cable operators is the proprietary analog network. Once an integral component of the cable access architecture, it now serves as the Achilles’ heel – responsible for bandwidth limitations, complex management requirements, and a bottleneck on the overall inability to scale to manage future capacity. Analog bandwidth growth is expensive and with racks of QAMs stacked together to convert digital services for analog optical transmission, cable operators are also faced with a substantial operating expense.

Adding to the mix is the legacy CMTS platforms, which were not designed to support the wide range of services cable operators now support. With full-featured I-CMTS platforms at every hub, consuming space and power and requiring advanced onsite expertise to deploy and maintain, cable operators feel their profits squeeze from their substantial operating expenditures.

Gaining the Competitive Advantage

To compete with pure-fiber and OTT competitors, cable operators need an alternative to the proprietary optical HFC architecture. Expensive as both CAPEX to acquire and OPEX to maintain, the proprietary optical HFC architecture can’t scale or provide the flexibility, speed and operational efficiency needed for future growth.

The good news is that there is a way out. We’ll share our path to overcoming the obstacles of the proprietary HFC architecture and gaining the competitive advantage at ANGA COM in Cologne, Germany on Tuesday, May 30th. Stay tuned for more details.


Greg Smith

Sr. Manager, Marketing

Cisco Solutions Marketing