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6 June 2019

Arris resurfaces with secretive DOCSIS upgrade, major vCore trials

Arris was quick to get in touch last week when we suggested the company’s radio silence pre-Anga Com could be cause for concern following its takeover by CommScope earlier this year. Trepidation that an innovative vendor might vanish from sight after being snapped up by a company more averse to public appearances in our industry is only a natural feeling – so we were relieved to hear that Arris would have an even bigger presence post-acquisition with a double stand and a trio of core technology demos.

In addition, the company revealed a significant network upgrade project with Vodafone Germany and a recent project with Swiss service provider Sasag – claiming the first European instance of upgrading an entire network to DOCSIS 3.1 for both upstream and downstream channels.

Over two months since issuing its last press release, CommScope is flaunting a new low latency DOCSIS system demoing IP video running alongside traditional QAM video over an EPON channel at 10 Gbps. Specifically what’s new within the Arris DOCSIS product isn’t immediately apparent, but Arris told Faultline Online Reporter that both the low latency DOCSIS and Soft FDD (we’ll get to this shortly) technologies are “future technology demos” – so presumably proof of concept products in the finishing stages of being readied for trials. CommScope will be demoing 1 millisecond latencies using DOCSIS 3.1, smashing the standard latency range of 25 milliseconds to 35 milliseconds, although the company refuses to give away its secret sauce for achieving this, considering no new specifications have come out of CableLabs this week. So, we should be a little circumspect here given the absence of technical explanation.

Elsewhere, CommScope has revealed a couple of advancements to Arris’ virtualized CCAP core (coined vCore for short), running its flagship E6000 edge router software. These include automated provisioning and capacity tools for service provisioning and smart capacity additions, plus orchestration and intelligence tools for managing multi-access configurations to produce more finely tuned network performance analytics. vCore will support off-the-shelf servers in the future, as well as its own CCAP chassis, to meet demand for DAA (distributed access architectures).

CommScope’s third and final Anga product showcase is the software-configurable Frequency Division Duplex (Soft FDD) which has the potential to deliver 10 Gbps speeds over coax – so what’s holding it back? That is firstly because FDD is still in its infancy and hasn’t been given the CableLabs specs treatment yet, and also because being married to FDD is one of the biggest issues facing DOCSIS. Soft FDD is essentially a foundation technology for symmetrical services – providing cable operators with a software-based method for balancing upstream and downstream spectrum instead of requiring manual adjustments and therefore reducing truck roll. This is interesting considering the proposal for Full Duplex DOCSIS is about transitioning the technology from being FDD to TDD (Time Division Duplexing) – a truly flexible bi-directional technique whereby a broadband line can switch almost all of its bandwidth upstream or downstream depending on customer demand. Given its fledgling state, there aren’t any cable modems or set tops on the market currently supporting Soft FDD, to our knowledge.

VCore is reportedly running trials at a number of unnamed cable operators and Arris promised us the technology will be in live deployments later this year, unlike the DOCSIS and Soft FDD product portfolios, which aren’t quite at that stage.

As for Vodafone Germany, the operator recently rolled out the DOCSIS 3.1 Touchstone TG3442 gateway from Arris, offered to its 9 million high-speed broadband households, forecasting a rise to 12 million by 2021. Switzerland’s Sasag, meanwhile, upgraded its 37,000 subscribers using the TG3442 router, in combination with the E6000 Converged Edge Router from Arris, together giving Sasag the crown of first European operator to upgrade its entire network to DOCSIS 3.1 for both upstream (100 Mbps) and downstream (1 Gbps) channels.

This begs the dreaded question of scalability, specifically of when technical enhancements will enable larger operators to complete full up and down DOCSIS 3.1 network upgrades like Sasag. Although, tier 1 operators opting for fiber network roll outs might is one obvious explanation.

CommScope COO Bruce McClelland said, “Customers can overlay innovations onto existing deployed platforms to maximize invested capital and minimize network disruption, devote a segment of their network to pilot next-generation technologies, or they can leapfrog to a fully next-generation architecture. We’re working with providers on all of these options, and the innovations are fully transferable around the globe.”