By Todd McCrum, Sr. Director, Strategy & Product Management, Cable Access BU
It was at last year’s INTX, in Chicago, that we launched the cBR-8 (remember the “Giga-Baby”?) as a way to help our cable service provider customers affordably and quickly offer faster broadband speeds, with converged equipment.
And here we are, 12 fast months later, with nearly 100 “Giga-box” customers spanning 32 countries. Crazy. Here is a snapshot of the progress we have made with the cBR-8 platform:
- Evolved CCAP: The hardware shipping today supports full ‘Evolved CCAP’ functionality, which includes DOCSIS 3.0, voice and MPEG video + DOCSIS 3.1 downstream and upstream + Remote PHY.
- Video: cBR-8 currently supports 96 unique channels of data and video per service group, with full MPEG VOD and switched digital video support for both Cisco and Arris encrypted video.
- DOCSIS 3.1: The current hardware supports both downstream and upstream DOCSIS 3.1 with software available for two blocks of OFDM.
We have other great things to say in today’s press release, but what is not in the release per se, is what’s happening beyond the palpable momentum for multi-Gig speeds in the downstream (customer-facing) direction. And by that I mean how fast our one-year-old “Giga-baby” can already run in the upstream signal direction (facing the Internet.)
Who cares? Bandwidth providers, for one. Why: As we, as consumers of bandwidth, start shipping around more webcam-sourced video, to more connected devices — over Wi-Fi or hard-wired — so will grow the need for more upstream speed, which ultimately leads to more symmetrical services.
Our view is that it’s a pretty urgent need. Think about it as it relates to your digital life: How many gadgets do you have, that can shoot video? (Don’t forget webcams.) How often do you shoot video with your phone, and send it to people over Wi-Fi? A lot, right? This matters because video is big (really big) compared to most other things moving over the Internet.
Which is why I wanted to take a moment, in this blog, to sketch out what’s happening under the hood of the cBR-8, as it relates to the upstream signal path. Which, pretty much forever, topped out at about 5% of total available capacity. So when you’re at home, connected to your cable provider’s Wi-Fi, sending all that video? It’s heavy on the system sometimes. And it’s going to get heavier, the more we record our lives in video.
So here’s the interesting sideline news about the cBR-8: We have tested and proven the ability to get to 700 Megabits-per-second / Mbps in the upstream path. For context: The prior speed record, in the upstream signaling direction, in the DOCSIS 3.0 days, was 100 Mbps.
We got there by running OFDMA across 96 MHz of spectrum, using 1024 QAM. This tends to be especially of interest for operators interested in expanding their upstream paths beyond 42 MHz, to 85 MHz or 200 MHz — it gives them the spectral “elbow room” to get there cleanly.
Some of you might be saying — yah, that’s nice, Todd, but what kind of signal-to-noise ratio do I have to have, to afford such a high order of modulation? Answer: We’re seeing customers get to 4096 QAM with N+2 and N+3 plant (where the “N” means “node,” and the digit means how many amplifiers are in cascade after it.) Granted, these are operators with pretty serious “clean plant” workflows, but, the point is that it’s doable.
Combine 700 Mbps of throughput in the upstream with the 3.5-5 Gigs of throughput already available in the downstream signal path — it’s huge, I’m telling you. Huge!
Unless I missed something, it’s a first. A big first. And it’s just the beginning. So. come by and talk to us about our “Giga baby.” She’s looking really good for one — and she’s really, really fast.