Casa Opens New Doors With Wireless Play

If you need more evidence that wireless will become a core component of the cable industry’s strategy, look no further than Casa Systems.

Casa, a tech vendor that cut its teeth on edge quadrature amplitude modulation units and DOCSIS access networking gear, has quietly pushed forward with a wireless product initiative meant to enhance the vendor’s position with cable operators while also catering to mobile carriers.

Boiled down, Casa’s product strategy centers on WiFi/small cell and wireless backhaul hardware and software for wireless- service providers. Early on, those products center on a “MobileEdge” system that features an Evolved Packet Data Gateway that handles WiFi off load for congested macro networks and the integration of voice and messaging services for consumers who use an emerging class of voiceover- WiFi-capable devices.

The ME10x is the flagship of that product family, focused on high-density environments served by tier-1 operators, while the ME4x is considered an entry-level product for distributed, edge processing of services and apps such as video streaming, voice and messaging.

Casa launched wireless trials with two operators in Asia and one in Europe in the second half of last year, executives said, and it is engaged with about 10 more. The initial set of trials is with mobile operators, though one has both mobile and cable assets.

Casa, which counts Liberty Global and Time Warner Cable among its MSO customers, has gotten this far fairly quietly. Parallel investment in wireless started in 2012, as Casa started to pursue “natural adjacencies,” senior vice president of worldwide sales Abraham Pucheril said. Casa’s core business continues to be cable-modem termination systems (CMTSs) and Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) products.

While cable access remains Casa’s bread and butter, about 20% of its employees are now focused on mobile R&D.

“Wireless is a way for the company to grow shareholder value while providing more value to our customer base,” said Vince Spinelli, Casa’s vice president, mobile business development and strategy, who is late of Cisco Systems, Starent Networks (a mobile core networking company that’s now part of Cisco), and Juniper Networks.

The move puts Casa in direct competition with incumbent RAN (radio access network) vendors, but could also position it as a potential supplier for WiFi-focused firms.

Casa is also formulating its strategy as cable operators expand their WiFi networks and look for new ways to get a return on that work. Cablevision Systems, for example, has launched Freewheel, a WiFi-only phone service. MSOs are also expected to pursue “WiFi-first” products that prefer WiFi connectivity, but use cellular as a backup.

Voice-over-WiFi “is becoming more active, more prevalent,” Pucheril said.