‘Remote PHY’ Rising

The “remote PHY” era is fully underway as two top cable access network suppliers – Arris and Cisco Systems – touted next-gen products that aim to help operators boost capacity while also keeping headend power and space requirements in check.

Both vendors touted their latest wares in conjunction with this week’s ANGA Com show in Cologne, Germany.

Arris’s approach uses the MAC core of its flagship converged cable access platform, the E6000, in tandem with new remote PHY modules that reside in the nodes. It’s also releasing a remote PHY shelf that’s targeted to smaller cable operators.

Arris also announced that Stofa, a Danish service provider, has tapped the vendor to migrate all its sites to DOCSIS 3.1 and a new distributed architecture that leans on the E6000 and Arris’s NC2000 nodes with the aforementioned remote PHY modules.

Cisco, meanwhile, launched “Infinite Broadband,” a remote PHY solution for cable operators that builds on its cBR-8 CCAP and GS7000 node products, noting that the combo establishes the “foundation” for virtualization and Full Duplex DOCSIS, an emerging annex to DOCSIS 3.1 that will enable symmetrical gigabit speeds on the HFC network.

RELATED: Cisco Chips In For ‘Full Duplex’ DOCSIS

Cisco said it RPHY has been shipping to customers in multiple countries since April 2017. Execs with Comcast, Cox Communications, and Liberty Global were referenced in Cisco’s RPHY announcement.

Update: Casa Systems, a vendor that competes with Arris and Cisco in the CCAP sector, announced Tuesday that it would demonstrate its DOCSIS 3.1 remote PHY solution at this week’s show.

Cisco also noted that its RPHY solution is based on “open, standardized software” contributed to the CableLabs OpenRPD forum in 2016 that, it claims, will create an interoperable ecosystem for remote PHY device vendors. Cisco said it’s also planning to provide interop testing for those vendors, with Vector Technologies, BKtel networks and Teleste already on board.

Cisco, Arris and other cable access network vendors are focusing on remote PHY as the architecture continues to become a bigger priority for cable operators. According to a recent survey of 35 cable operators around the globe conducted by Kagan Research, 61% of those MSOs said they plan to start virtualizing their CCAPs or begin the shift to a distributed access architecture (DAA) by the end of 2018.

RELATED: Cable Ops Poised for Push into Virtualization, Distributed Architectures

Arris expects remote PHY orders to start picking up toward Q4 with a commercial ramp up anticipated by the start of 2018, Dan Whalen, president of Arris’s Network & Cloud unit, said, noting that it pushes some of the space and power challenges faced by cable operators into the node while also paving the way for more capacity.

"We think the ramp starts next year,” Whalen said.

Arris, he added, is also pursuing a remote MAC/PHY strategy that could be ready to take hold by mid-2018, but acknowledged that there are some concerns about how much power consumption will be required inside the node to support both the MAC and the PHY.

The move to distributed architectures also create a more Ethernet-centric, open network, explained Daniel Etman, product marketing director for Cisco’s Cable Access Business Unit.

Cisco, he added, is also factoring in a new set of auto-configuration tools that enable field techs to update remote PHY nodes and enable operators to start to pivot to more distributed architectures.