Comcast has issued a RFP for Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) hardware and, even before the first test version of hardware based on the new spec has arrived, says it plans to begin testing the technology “imminently.”

The operator currently is developing software that can emulate a CCAP, disclosed Jorge Salinger, vice president/Access Network Architecture at Comcast, during a recent cable gathering in Denver. He said Comcast has adopted an aggressive schedule under which “we intend by the later part of this year to begin deploying,” with deployment ramping next year. In order to meet that schedule, he added, Comcast is planning an eight-week trial involving eight service nodes in the near future. The exact time and place have not been decided.

According to Salinger, the trial will use discrete M-CMTS core and edge QAM hardware. Finished CCAP gear will integrate those two functions into a single unit. “The proof of the concept (of CCAP) is if we can do a service group split and get it right — in one night,” Salinger explained.

The drive for CCAP was started by Comcast with the development of specs turned over to Cable Labs. The reason Comcast wants CCAP – which cuts the number of devices a MSO needs at the headend roughly in half – is simple: “They’re cheaper,” said Salinger. The payoff also includes the flexibility of CCAP architecture to let cablecos move from one technology to another – including evolving to IP video – without having to change out large amounts of hardware.

“It’s a ‘wire once, and then just migrate over the years,’” added John Chapman, a Cisco Fellow and CTO of the Cable Access Business Unit.

And while CCAP was Comcast’s idea, other MSOs are lining up to use the technology to reap those benefits. CCAP has the potential to “save us an enormous amount of operational costs, because we don’t have to re-cable” whenever services change, noted Jeff Finkelstein, Cox Communications’ senior director/Network Architecture.

Hardware manufacturers, meanwhile, have picked up on the challenge, and there’s little doubt that furious work on developing CCAP devices is going on at major manufacturers. CCAP “was a good excuse to build faster and better product,” says Cisco’s Chapman. Indeed, he indicated, CCAP-based products are expected to become the mainstream offering from his company, although he carefully explained that Cisco does plan to continue to make “incremental” improvements to its current cable offerings.

And Cisco’s competition also is singing the praises of the new hardware architecture that may take over the MSO market. “CCAP isn’t really (just) a box. I view CCAP as an evolution,” concluded Tom Cloonan, chief strategy officer at ARRIS.

— Stuart Zipper

The Daily

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