Cisco Gears Up for CCAP Tests

ATLANTA – Cable-Tec Expo 2013 -- Cisco Systems’s coming, fully integrated Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) is nearing lab trials with cable operators and will support cable’s next-gen, multi-gigabit IP platform when it’s ready to go prime time, company execs said here this week.

Three “major” cable operators will begin lab tests of the cBR-8 within five weeks, said Cisco SVP/GM of service provider video infrastructure Joe Cozzolino, the ex-Motorola Home executive who joined Cisco on September 4.

Cisco declined to name its test partners here at the show, but Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications are among Cisco’s biggest customers and are considered champions of CCAP, a super dense platform that will combine the edge QAM and cable modem termination systems functions and be capable of delivering all of cable’s services.

The cBR-8 is Cisco’s still somewhat secretive, all-singing, all-dancing CCAP. At the show, Cisco was showing it off privately in its “whisper suite,” just as it was in June at The Cable Show in Washington, D.C.  Cisco's still anticipating a launch of the cBR-8 sometime in 2014.

And when it does, “the goal is to launch with DOCSIS 3.1,” said Todd McCrum, director of product management for Cisco's Cable Access businss unit, referring to CableLabs spec due out later this month that’s designed to scale up to 10 Gbps downstream and between 1 Gbps to 2 Gbps in the upstream.

McCrum said the cBR-8 will support D3.1 using a module that plugs into a module on a board that slides into the chassis.

He said the cBR-8 is already capable of running video on the device’s data plane, but not yet through its control plane.

Cisco will be fighting for CCAP share primarily with Arris, Casa Systems, Harmonic, and CommScope. Gainspeed, a startup that just landed a “B” round led by V.C. arm of Juniper Networks, is said to be developing a virtualized version of CCAP that distributes the physical layer deeper into the network. Aurora Networks, soon to be part of Pace, has developed a product that packs QAM capacity in the node.

Cisco and others are also developing remote PHY product strategies, which are designed to help cable operators digitize their access networks and pursue higher modulations that will enable them to deliver more bits through the same amount of bandwidth.

However, vendors are not yet aligned on those technical approaches for remote PHY, a topic that is expected to stir up a fresh round of debate in cable engineering circles in the coming years.