Arris, others absent in Anga Com build up – can rivals take advantage?

Anga Com isn’t a show we generally associate with revolutionary innovation or groundbreaking deals being struck, yet sometimes looking further down the pecking order can uncover some significant potential.

While new boy Synamedia has arguably stolen the pre-show limelight with a confusing virtual headend in a box product launch (as covered in detail in a separate story), a number of not-so-familiar vendors are accompanying the usual suspects in flexing their cable muscles prior to the event in Cologne next week, which we’ll dive into. A couple of notable pre-show absentees though include MaxLinear, a trailblazer in manufacturing chipsets for all three powerline technologies, while the HomeGrid Forum, the alliance behind deploying and supporting technology, is familiarly averse to press releases. But no absence in pre-show noise is more glaring than Arris, which we’ll get to later on.

The transition by network operators to Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) continues to be a hot trend and a vendor we are less acquainted with in this space is Wisi Communications, which has gone all-out on Anga announcements. Its optical platform has been upgraded to support CCAP and DOCSIS 3.1 on HFC, RF over Glass (RFoG) and RF Overlay in FTTx applications. It says the inverted node LR 44 provides FTTH access through existing HFC plants, while Optical Beat Interface (OBI) – a key challenge found in RFoG systems causing signal degradation – is eliminated thanks to optical amplification and high-splitting ratios to connect up to 32 ports.

We have seen similar OBI-free RFoG products from Pace (Arris) probably over a year ago now, so while the technology might not be completely new, it’s always nice to see smaller vendors emerging with competing products against major firms like Arris.

And with DAA leading the way towards virtualization in core networks, Wisi emphasizes how its products can help unify architectures by standardized interfaces, which will ultimately result in a modular network with less central software components, coined Software Defined Architecture (SDA).

In a more video-focused announcement, the German cable TV technology vendor has unveiled a new micro headend called the OM20 for IPTV applications in the hospitality sector, supporting up to 128 TV channels as IP streams from 6 DVB-S/S2/S2X transponders. Wisi first appeared on our radar in early 2017 when Verimatrix added some Wisi features allowing operators to receive and decrypt as many as 128 unique 4K, HD or SD Verimatrix scrambled services, to output as any combination of IP, ASI, digital QAM or modulated analog CATV.

Moving on. ATX Networks, an old guard of the cable industry operating since 1985, is freshening things up by debuting its GigaXtend portfolio of broadband access products. GigaXtend is being marketed as a “generational leap” compared to existing products, providing MSOs with a path to Extended Spectrum DOCSIS (ESD) – otherwise known as DOCSIS 4.0. Once again, that fateful name Arris springs to mind, having first covered ESD in January, when the US giant boasted about developing ESD techniques several years back, seemingly to mock rivals claiming technical breakthroughs. ESD is one technique on the road to Full Duplex DOCSIS (10 Gbps up, 10 Gbps down), along with Ultra-High-Split technology and continued development of fundamental 20-year old data transmission techniques.

After covering product launches from just two vendors, already the consensus is leaning us towards saying that Arris is miles ahead. Rivals therefore have a monumental task and where they may lack in technical and financial clout, they are betting on bigger marketing campaigns in the run up to Anga. That said, Arris hasn’t issued a press release since its acquisition by CommScope was completed in early April. Could the takeover silence Arris’ presence at events where the company has traditionally been one of the most prominent and exciting? We hope not.

Edit: Arris got in touch to inform us the company will have a large presence at Anga, showcasing on two stands side-by-side to enable the migrations to 5G, 10G and more, and will be issuing an Anga press release. That doesn’t necessarily mean Arris/CommScope will make any significant announcements.

We assume then that Harmonic, easily a more viable rival to Arris than others and arguably at an increasing rate, will be keen to take advantage of the Arris-shaped hole – teasing the introduction of new capabilities for its CableOS product targeted at gaming use cases. Harmonic says it will provide a “sneak peek of a new low-latency features for the CableOS offering that drastically improves gamers’ quality of experience.” That’s all Harmonic is saying on the matter for now, so we’ll be sure to revisit the CableOS upgrade next week.

Harmonic will also be running AI-based encoding and statistical multiplexing demos using AVC, claiming a 20% bit rate reduction for operators using AI-based video compression.

Of course, smaller cable technology vendors are not necessarily in direct competition with larger beasts like Arris, but are increasingly highlighting interoperability with CCAP and CMTS cores from Cisco, Arris, Casa Systems, Harmonic and more, as being essential for progression in the industry.