Changes Roiling Cable Operators and Their Vendors

Carl Weinschenk
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The nature of cable networks is changing, and that is leading the biggest vendors in the industry to make significant calculations on their future.

For a few years, the industry has been building up to the next iteration of the Data over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS). DOCSIS 3.1 is set to soon move center stage. At the same time, the industry is moving to combine video and data functionality into a new class of equipment called consolidated cable access platforms (CCAP). Virtualization, or the physical separation of functionality from where it will be used, is also growing.

IHS released research tracing two of these trends: DOCSIS and CCAP. The data covers companies that control 87 percent of the world’s cable capex. The firm found that 42 percent plan to deploy distributed access, which is the category into which CCAP falls, by 2017. Respondents to the survey say, on average, that about one-third of their subscriber base “will be passed by DOCSIS 3.1-enabled headends by April” of the same year.

The amount of return path spectrum, which always has been a challenge for cable operators, will trek upward over that time period as well: One half will have 86MHz to 100MHz and one quarter will have 101MHz to 200MHz, the study said.


At the highest level, these are big changes, and vendors whose fortunes largely depend on the Comcasts and Time Warner Cables of the world—as well as the smaller multiple-system operators—have to make some savvy bets.

Apparently, two of the biggest set-top box (STB) players came to significantly different conclusions.

As I noted in a previous post, Cisco is selling its customer premise equipment (CPE) business to Technicolor for $600 million. Fortune said that the deal, which will close by late this year or early in 2016, will put Cisco Senior Vice President, Chief Technology and Strategy Officer, Hilton Romanski, on Technicolor’s board of directors. The two companies also entered into a strategic partnership “to develop and deliver next generation video and broadband solutions and services,” according to a post by Romanski at Cisco’s site.

Cisco’s biggest competitor in the cable CPE sector is Arris. In April, it agreed to acquire Pace, another CPE vendor. In June, the U.S. Department of Justice made a second request for information as it considers the deal.

Mari Silbey’s story on the Pace/Arris deal at LightReading points out through a paraphrase of a comment by Synergy Research Group Chief Analyst John Dinsdale that the nature of the two deals points to “a growing divide in the industry between network solutions and client-side hardware.”

The world of telecommunications is being revolutionized by ever faster networking and virtualization, and the cable industry is not immune. The changes in the way people get their video alongside, of course, changes in how they consume it have ramifications on vendors as well as operators.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.



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