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1 August 2019

CommScope-Arris joint DAA drive is daunting – but what about overlap?

Some confusion surrounds the overlapping product portfolios of Arris and new parent company CommScope which requires a little attention. CommScope has just launched a new Remote PHY device for the burgeoning distributed access architecture (DAA) market, called the RD1322 2×2, enabling operators to harness existing network infrastructure to ultimately achieve 10G services. Clearly Arris and CommScope are attacking this industry from different angles, but from a non-engineer perspective the intricate differences are difficult to pinpoint.

It appears the new CommScope RD1322 2×2 avoids stepping on the toes of its subsidiary, and vice versa, because the R-PHY device plugs directly into the vendor’s existing base of NC4- and OM4-series fiber nodes. This relates to a specific area of Outside Plant (OSP) DAA products, designed to allow operators to build upon their installed base of nodes to make waves in Extended Spectrum DOCSIS (ESD), Full Duplex DOCSIS (FDX), DAA, Remote PON, Wireless Backhaul, DOCSIS 3.1, and more. CommScope notes this is especially valuable in the labor-intensive OSP domain.

Operators have a variety of paths they can direct their capex dollars as they shift towards the edge of the network. CommScope’s appeal is that its optical node footprint at tier 1 cablecos is already one of the largest the world over. Faultline Online Reporter attempted to prize some additional detail from CommScope about the how the two respective company product portfolios interweave, if at all, but we never received a response.

What we do know is that CommScope’s 10G roadmap comprises an expanding portfolio of traditional and DAA OSP products, along with wired and wireless CPE and Inside Plant (ISP) technologies. Whereas if we take a look at the Arris DAA portfolio, the roadmap is naturally more geared towards video, most recently at Anga Com unveiling a new low latency DOCSIS system demoing IP video running alongside traditional QAM video over an EPON channel at 10 Gbps.

Elements of uncertainty remain however as the announcement never highlighted the difference between the latest product and previous versions. However, Arris told Faultline Online Reporter at the time that both the low latency DOCSIS and software-configurable Frequency Division Duplex (Soft FDD) technologies are “future technology demos” – so presumably proof of concept products in the finishing stages of being readied for trials. CommScope has also been 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 in recent weeks.

Interestingly, it comes as Harmonic published its second quarter results this week (see separate story in this issue), with revenues down but on the promise that the Comcast contract would bear fruit later this year to drive the company back to growth. Earlier this year it appeared Arris had lost out to Harmonic, but it later transpired that Comcast remains a significant I-CCAP customer for Arris, which anticipates continued ongoing investment in this platform as the migration to the new DAA architecture occurs over several years.

Arris has described its strategy to Faultline Online Reporter as one of a “graceful migration” leveraging the installed base of robust E-6000 I-CCAP edge routers as well as fully virtualized version of this product. Arris also pegs itself as a major supplier of plant fiber nodes but it’s unclear if this is organic Arris or CommScope, or both.

An air of confusion so soon after an acquisition is inevitable, particularly when the two parties have similar products yet continue to operate as individual brands, yet there’s little doubt that combined, an Arris-fueled CommScope is a juggernaut in many markets – particularly with products targeting the DAA trend.

“As global operators continue to invest in tomorrow’s 10G networks, the outside plant will represent a primary budget focus,” said Kevin Keefe, SVP and segment leader of CommScope’s Network & Cloud division. “Our RD1322 2×2 RPD is the answer for operators looking to maximize their existing infrastructure to deliver tomorrow’s networks and services as quickly as possible.”

Edit: Arris explained to Faultline Online Reporter: “To clarify, both DAA products come from the legacy Arris side of the house. The 2×2 RD1322 that we just announced adds breadth to the portfolio:

  • It’s tailored to the needs of operators who maintain a traditional segmented OSP architecture (in which each fiber optic node is followed by a cascade of amplifiers). Our current 1×1 RPD is tailored to our fiber deep nodes (a version for the nc4 and a version for the om6).
  • It can support more deployment models in that the RPD can support “analog overlay” of video services in case operators still have analog video channels or are not yet ready to migrate their all-digital video system to a native Remote PHY implementation.
  • The major differences between fiber deep and n+x are the number of subscribers serviced by a node, and the node’s launch power.  Additionally, fiber deep typically involves construction and replacement of all nodes.  Growth in n+x plant is more of an as-needed event, tied to node splitting (adding a new node and shifting half the subscribers away from a congested node).  In this situation, continuity in the type of node housing has operational advantages (inventory, training, support), and the RD1322 speaks to the significant footprint of The nc4 and om4 deployed nodes.

Also, our 2×2 RPD has essentially double the capabilities of the 1×1 (allowing eventual evolution to full-spectrum narrowcast payload on each of the 2 service groups.”