Indecision and infighting amongst cable operators about their next-gen network plans are heaping havoc upon some of the industry's top suppliers while also opening up the door to opportunities for others.
Although they held the high ground during the DOCSIS 3.0 and DOCSIS 3.1 eras, the competitive footing of Arris/CommScope, Cisco Systems and even Casa Systems has been slipping a bit as MSOs mull over what direction to take next. That situation, in turn, has aided Harmonic, which has made a big bet on CableOS, a virtualized form of the Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) that is being adopted in a big way by Comcast and being monitored closely by several other major cable operators.
The long-term position of cable access network vendors is also being stirred up as cable operators assess their next moves with a distributed access architecture (DAA) and the pursuit of bandwidth-building technologies such as Full Duplex DOCSIS (FDX) and Extended Spectrum DOCSIS (ESD). While Comcast is a champion of FDX, many other cable operators around the world are more interested in ESD.
This fragmentation and divisiveness threatens to spawn a new kind of problem for the cable industry and its group of equipment makers and silicon vendors. Comcast alone probably isn't big enough to drive enough volume into FDX to make that work for suppliers. And the other operators don't drive enough volume for a different, non-FDX option.
"None of us are big enough to carry the ecosystem," a cable exec familiar with the debate said.
A potential unifier and solution to this problem is DOCSIS 4.0, a specification under development at CableLabs that will support FDX, ESD and Low-Latency DOCSIS. However, it could be as many as three years before D4.0 is ready for prime time. In the meantime, cable operators can still plow ahead with some outside plant upgrades and the deployment of remote PHY devices.
For a deeper analysis of the trends, challenges and possible road ahead for both cable operators and their suppliers, please see this story in our sister site, Light Reading: Cable's access network market descends into disruption and chaos .)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading