Harmonic IDs a Real Deployment for Its Virtual CCAP

After hinting last year that a commercial deployment of its new “virtual” CCAP was underway with a major operator in Europe, Harmonic announced that Com Hem has started to deploy the vendor’s new “CableOS” platform across its network.

Virtualized CCAPs are coming on the scene as cable operators look to pump up capacity on their networks while also reducing the space, cooling and powering requirements that come with traditional CCAP products. The approach also enables operators to employ quicker, agile-style development cycles.

Rather than relying on purpose-built CCAP chassis, new virtualized approaches place key functionality in software that run on commercial off-the-shelf servers.

In the case of Harmonic’s CableOS, a product that was introduced in the fall of 2016, the software runs on off-the-shelf x86 servers, explained Asaf Matatyaou, the VP of solutions and product management for Harmonic’s Cable Edge Business.

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Word that Com Hem, a Sweden-based operator that serves about 1.5 million customers, is deploying CableOS comes on the heels of an announcement that the operator’s lab unit is testing symmetrical speeds of 1.2 Gbps in Stockholm using DOCSIS 3.1. That lab work also arrives as the cable industry pursues Full Duplex DOCSIS, an emerging annex to DOCSIS 3.1 that will support multi-gigabit symmetrical speeds. Com Hem's plan, meanwhile, is to do more fine-tuning prior to an  commercial deployment of its symmetrical gigabit service that's anticipated for 2019.

Com Hem is in the process of rolling Cable OS across its footprint. Its legacy CCAP environment is a modular approach that uses Cisco Systems’s uBR10012 chassis and Harmonic’s NSG Pro edge QAM. During the migration, COTS servers will replace the Cisco chassis and NSG Pros will be outfitted with upstream and downstream cards at the physical layer.

Though Harmonic has identified Com Hem as the first operator to have a commercial deployment of CableOS underway, there are others.

Matatyaou said Harmonic has field trials going and live deployments underway in multiple regions. Harmonic announced a warrant agreement with Comcast based on sales to the MSO and deployment milestones involving the CableOS product, but has not announced details on the progress being made with rollouts.

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Speaking on Harmonic’s Q3 earnings call in October, CEO Patrick Harshman said his company has secured “material” commitments for CableOS with more than ten “leading” operators, along with an expectation that Harmonic would pull down CableOS-related revenues of $100 million plus in 2018.

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In addition to reducing space and power requirements, Matatyaou said MSOs are also gravitating to virtual CCAPs to help in other situations, including parts of the network, usually in rural areas, with small service group counts where it might be cost-prohibitive to use chassis-based, power-hungry CCAPs.

It’s also coming in handy as operators consolidate hub sites, he said.