Distributed Access Architectures = next gen solution to address increasing capacity requirements
The race toward gigabit (and beyond) access networks is well underway, and accelerating. Whilst high-profile fiber build-outs in the U.S. (think a big internet search company) are getting attention, many operators around the world are moving fast to build out gigabit capabilities, and in many cases it is cable operators that are leading the way. We recently highlighted a European first in our blog Starman going where no European cable operator has gone before – which featured the launch by Estonian cable operator Starman of a residential broadband service capable of delivering 10Gbps for both download and upload, using Nokia Ethernet PON fiber to the home technology. It is approaches like this that are needed to meet the gigabit era demand for entertainment and communication experiences, including the delivery of high-quality video and virtual reality services to multiple devices, on demand and with a cloud service look and feel.
Since gigabit fever set in, cable operators have been taking a good hard look at honing a pragmatic, yet forward-looking access strategy that embraces multiple technologies such as hybrid fiber coaxial (HFC) cable, primarily in existing deployments, and fiber to the home (FTTH) for new, ‘greenfield’ networks. The goal is to deliver increasing amounts of IP based content, both live and on-demand, as required, while leveraging as much of their existing investment as possible. For instance, on the video side, they are looking at ways to leverage their QAM-based video infrastructure – still a major component of their networks – as they shift toward IP delivery. Other areas of focus are to reclaim cable capacity used by older analog services spectrum, splitting nodes to share available capacity between smaller serving groups of subscribers and investing in a migration to DOCSIS® 3.1 technology to squeeze more IP bandwidth out of this precious coaxial asset.
Deploying for the long term
Now there is another architectural option for cable operators, called a Distributed Access Architecture (DAA), which – when coupled with cloud technologies – can give operators much greater flexibility to address the access network capacity challenge. This approach has been pioneered by Gainspeed (a company aquired by Nokia last year) in their Unified Cable Access solution. In a DAA model, the fiber nodes that drive the coaxial delivery into homes or businesses are placed closer to the premise and support a fewer number of subscribers per fiber node. This is great, but of course results in more fiber nodes in the network as well as an increase in the corresponding cable modem termination system/converged cable access platform (CMTS/CCAP) components in the network edge/hub locations to support these. Now, by using Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), we can completely virtualize the CCAP capabilities and eliminate all cable-specific ‘Big Iron’ hardware from those head-end/hub locations. In such an approach, the CCAP control plane and management functions are centralized on an off-the-shelf server while the required DOCSIS processing and RF modulation are moved to the cable fiber node.
Nokia has shown that the results of such an architecture are compelling:
- The link between the head-end and fiber node becomes an all-digital Ethernet/all-IP connection and eliminates distance limitations of older analogue architectures.
- It provides greater space and power saving, with up to 7x reduction in hub rack space and 8x reduction in power compared to traditional CCAP architectures – these are precious, and expensive resources.
- It allows for a smooth migration towards a future all-IP working.
- It facilitates an optimum approach for future DOCSIS Full Duplex coaxial services. These are deployed directly from the fiber node, onto an amplifier-free cable segment, known in the industry as a node-plus-zero (N+0) architecture.
- It is compatible with FTTH greenfield deployments and facilitates a unified approach to cable access – a central controller for both HFC as well as FTTH.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, it’s reality already. Since 2016, Nokia has offered a deployable virtualized CCAP that will perform at blistering gigabit speeds today, while allowing cable operators to maintain their existing QAM hub assets. It will future-proof cable access investments by creating a unified access platform with FTTH as well as being DOCSIS Full Duplex ready.
Welcome to ANGACOM
I invite you to come and see our Nokia Unified Cable Access live in action at the upcoming ANGACOM trade show, 30th May – 1st June, Cologne, Germany, Hall 7, stand E20. Why not request a demo, take a look at our Unified Cable Access web page or contact your local Nokia salesperson for more info?
Today is a great day to DAA your cable access!
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