With the start of the DOCSIS 4.0 network transition looming on the horizon, CommScope claims that a critical piece of its distributed access architecture (DAA) portfolio is now ready for field deployment.
That product, dubbed the RD2322 Remote MACPHY (RxD), supports both remote PHY and remote MACPHY operation in DAA deployments – elements that will enable cable operators to digitize and boost the performance of their hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks, pivot away from traditional, centralized platforms and, possibly, pave the way toward access network virtualization.
While remote PHY pushes the PHY layer out toward the edge of the hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) network, remote MACPHY also pushes network processing out toward the edge. Cable operators can configure the new product as a remote PHY device (RPD) or turn it into a remote MACPHY device (RPD) via a remote software upgrade.
CommScope says the RD2322 is flexible in that it can support both remote PHY and remote MACPHY operations on new distributed access architectures.
CommScope, which got deeper into the cable access game via its 2019 acquisition of Arris, introduced the flexibly focused RD2322 last fall, noting that the new product can be deployed with the vendor's NC4000 and Opti Max OM41x series optical nodes.
CommScope hasn't identified any specific trials or deployments for its new wares. A company spokesperson noted that the RD2322 is in "active lab trials" with multiple operators in all regions. CommScope has also received orders for the new product and expects deployments to start later this year, the official added.
Those deployments will get underway as cable operators start to get more aggressive with a distributed access architecture. DAA is also a stepping stone toward DOCSIS 4.0, a new set of CableLabs specifications that aim to deliver up to 10 Gbit/s downstream and as much as 6 Gbit/s in the upstream on the HFC network.
DAA deployments set to accelerate
Though DAA activity slowed in 2020 as operators added capacity to their existing HFC networks to stay ahead of high data demands driven by the pandemic, DAA deployments are expected to ramp up in 2021 and beyond.
"I expect a slightly larger increase this year," Jeff Heynen, VP of broadband access and home networking at Dell'Oro Group, said last week at Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies, an online event hosted by Light Reading. "2022 is that year where a larger number of operators begin their DAA projects in earnest. I also think that 2022 is the year where we start to see these Flexible MAC and remote MACPHY deployments, which I think are going to grow in 2023 and beyond as part of that DOCSIS 4.0 upgrade cycle."
DAA competition heats up
Of course, CommScope isn't the only vendor targeting the DAA opportunity.
Harmonic is also getting aggressive with DAA, viewing the deployment of new DAA-focused nodes as critical real estate and a catalyst for "CableOS," its access network virtualization platform for both HFC and fiber-to-the-premises networks. Vecima Networks is also starting to see DAA sales perk up following its acquisition of Nokia's access network business.
Meanwhile, Casa Systems is "seeing strong orders" for its DAA products and expects that activity to pick up significantly starting in 2022, CEO Jerry Guo said last week on the company's Q1 2021 earnings call.
However, it's still not known how long supply chain constraints might impair the DAA market. On Monday, Harmonic said supply constraints for components are driving up costs and reducing margins for certain cable access equipment, including its DAA products, at least temporarily.
CommScope acknowledged that the cable market is not immune to the impact of global chip shortages, but is doing what it can to mitigate its effects.
"CommScope has a world-class Supply Chain team who track and recognize industry trends (positive and negative) and as a result have been proactively working with our vendor partners to minimize the impacts to our supply chain and the availability of our products," the company said in a statement.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading