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Cisco To Roll Out Its First CCAP Building Block

Cisco Systems is gearing up to bring out its higher-density edge QAM line card -- with eight times the unicast capacity of its current-generation platform -- which the vendor is positioning as a key stepping stone toward a full implementation of CableLabs' Converged Cable Access Platform.

At the 2012 Cable Show in Boston May 21-23, the vendor plans to show the DS384 line card for its RF Gateway 10 edge QAM platform. The DS384 is an eight-port line card with support for up to 128 QAMs per port that can support a mix of DOCSIS 3.0, switched digital video and video-on-demand services, with a maximum of 384 narrowcast QAMs that can be used across any of the ports.

In a fully loaded RF Gateway 10 populated with 10 DS384s, the platform will provide as many as 3,840 narrowcast downstreams in a 14-rack-unit chassis, said Mark Palazzo, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Cable Access Business Unit. That's compared with a maximum of 480 QAMs per RF Gateway 10 with Cisco's existing line card option.

"Most operators should be able to collapse all their edge QAMs... into that single platform," Palazzo said on a call with reporters Monday.

The DS384 also will be able to deliver more than 3,000 broadcast video QAMs per chassis; for example, in a CCAP use case, the platform could support up to six ports with 64 narrowcast plus 64 replicated broadcast QAMs per port.

Previously, Cisco had expected to ship the DS384 line cards in the first quarter of 2012.

CableLabs's CCAP initiative, which integrates the functions of broadcast and narrowcast QAMs and DOCSIS 3.0 interfaces to gain operational efficiencies, synthesizes previous headend-consolidation projects that were under way at Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

By upgrading to the DS384 cards, MSOs currently using Cisco's RF Gateway 10 can reduce rack space requirements by 35%, which will drop powering costs. The move also "sets operators on a path that makes CCAP attainable," Palazzo said.

The DS384 has a tuning range of 50 MHz to 1 GHz. The cards can deliver services across the full spectrum and provide the flexibility to place QAMs in any frequency band rather than requiring them to be contiguous, according to Cisco. According to Palazzo, Cisco has shipped more than 2 million QAMs to date, to 385 customers in 64 countries on six continents.

Cable operators should migrate to CCAP in phases over several years, starting with a converged edge QAM infrastructure, "instead of waiting until the hardware is certified [for the full CCAP specification] in 2014, 2015 and say, ‘OK, now we're going to start converging,'" Palazzo said.

According to Palazzo, Cisco has shipped more than 2 million QAMs to date, to 385 customers in 64 countries on six continents.

In a second phase of Cisco's CCAP road map, the company is developing a processing engine for the uBR10000 that will increase its backhaul capacity from 10 Gigabits per second to 40 Gbps. (A 40 Gbps upstream capacity is the starting point for CCAP, Palazzo noted.) Cisco's third and final phase will be a fully CCAP-compliant device that integrates edge QAMs and CMTS functions in the same device.