When Push Comes to Shove, Cable Starts Pushing Fiber

Carl Weinschenk

A common mistake is to assume an industry is married to a particular technology. While it may favor one approach to the point of being identified with it, what it really is married to is the revenue that platform produces. Cable operators, for instance, revolutionized video distribution by development of their robust hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) infrastructure during the past two decades, and are now closely associated with that approach.

 

The allegiance to HFC may be fraying a bit, however, due to two interrelated issues: The telcos are coming at them aggressively with high capacity fiber-heavy approaches, and the amount of data that has to be ferried hither and yon is exploding.

 

During the past couple of years, cable operators have gradually moved toward more fiber-heavy platforms. This Cable Digital News story says that Cox Communications has a request for information out on fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) approaches. The company is examining all possibilities and the initiative still is at the fairly general stage. Cox is not abandoning HFC and the major focus of a FTTP option would be new builds in which HFC would not be displaced. Vendors are giving cable operators ways to move more fully to fiber without losing their HFC investments.

 

Vendors know this. Motorola used the Cable Tec Expo show this week in Philadelphia to announce the expansion of its Broadband Access Network family. The new products will enable operators to extend fiber deeper into networks by replacing radio frequency (RF) amplifiers with optical nodes and free up space at the headends for the additional equipment the increased segmentation makes necessary. The company also introduced a narrowcast optical transmitter aimed at the cable market. There also are less familiar-sounding names queing up to help operators.

 

For instance, Salira Systems earlier this month introduced the DePON platform, which enables the cable industry's Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) standard to operate on Ethernet passive optical network (EPON) systems. DOCSIS is a family of cable standards that initially was designed for HFC networks. Salira says that its technology can help DOCSIS migrate to Ethernet-based fiber networks, enabling reuse of a tremendous amount of gear. The release says that the DePON system can provide 4 Gigabits per second (Gbps) in both directions.


 

A cable initiative called Radio Frequency over Glass (RFOG) aims to shepherd the industry into a more fiber-rich environment. Hitachi Telecom has added RFOG capabilities to its AMN1220 GPON (Gigabit passive optical network) product line. There are two versions of the new products in its Node+Zero family. Node+Zero H-103 works in conjunction with a GPON optical network termination unit in the network, while the Node+Zero H-112 passes signals directly to the subscriber premises.

 

The tech folks meeting in Philadelphia clearly had fiber on their minds. Aurora Networks said at the conference that Canadian operator Vid´┐Żotron Ltd. is using its Fiber Deep product to pass 1.8 million homes in the Montreal metropolitan area. The release says that the elimination of active RF components typically cuts power costs in half and trims operational costs by three-quarters. End users realize a tenfold increase in narrowcast bandwidth, according to the company.

 

The cable industry, of course, is no stranger to fiber. During the next few years, the use of the material will creep ever closer to homes and businesses while the use of coaxial cable will gradually decline.



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