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Vecima warns of DOCSIS duopoly, talks Concurrent roadmap

A catch-up with cable veteran vendor Vecima Networks since its acquisition of Concurrent’s video delivery and storage business last year has been a long time coming. Discussing pressing future trends including the convergence of DOCSIS and 5G technologies was front and center, making Vecima’s $29 million bet on an IP video company all the more obscure – although a deeper dive reveals the complementary businesses are clearly reaping dividends.

Our first bone to pick, as with any M&A process, is whether any casualties to the Concurrent product line have arisen since the takeover. Against the grain, Vecima’s SVP of Product and Marketing for North America, Ryan Nicometo, who came over from Concurrent, revealed that nothing in the way of streamlining has occurred. But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, considering what attracted Vecima in the first place to its debut in IP video technology was a fundamentally profitable business serving live, VoD and cloud DVR – three core markets which Nicometo assured us are all on the up – with nothing in the way of overlapping products with its parent company.

Of course, this aroused our suspicions and certainly the Concurrent in a few years will look noticeably different. Nicometo elaborated that the entire business is gradually getting out of hardware, while the Concurrent side – which earned its stripes in scalable storage and CDN caching – is homing in on software-only transcoding. For this, Concurrent is emphasizing cloud computing, whether it be AWS, Azure or private cloud. “We don’t care what cloud infrastructure a customer uses,” said Nicometo, in a fitting sign of the times. Concurrent is currently running experiments and exploring partnerships with third party transcoding vendors for the Concurrent MediaScaleX portfolio but Nicometo wouldn’t budge on who specifically.

With the emphasis on how complementary the two businesses are to each other, we probed as to whether Vecima has had much success in selling its broadband products to Concurrent customers and vice versa. This didn’t elicit much of a response, so we pointed out Cox Communications and GET Norway as two significant Concurrent accounts and Nicometo revealed that Cox was already a shared customer before the acquisition, while GET is pure Concurrent.

Nicometo then fired into life at the mention of Vecima’s Entra DOCSIS 3.1 Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) platform. “DAA isn’t rising nearly as quickly as we expected. There are numerous operational challenges facing the industry and we have been helping large scale customers like one very large North American cable operator (we believe this to be Comcast) sort out the complex management required in the multi-vendor environment which DAA enables,” he said, adding that some six months ago, the market was particularly fragmented, but now Vecima has “sorted out” its product portfolio.

As we know, DOCSIS 3.1 is enabling 1 Gbps broadband deployments across North America, targeting coax MDUs in particular with the next generation of HFC nodes to enable high speed internet, deep ethernet switching, services aggregation, as well as IPTV and support for legacy digital video. Vecima says Entra combines the newest technology with operational improvements, while Nicometo highlighted interoperability with CCAP and CMTS cores from Cisco, Arris, Casa Systems, Harmonic and more.

Keep your friends close but your enemies closer, as the saying goes, so working with competing technologies has its advantages. “Cisco is a formidable force, but our open standards-based model gives us an advantage. We are breaking up the duopoly (Cisco and Arris) although the scaling out process is slow and painful,” noted Nicometo.

We wondered if this means a company the size of Cisco is less likely to embrace a multi-vendor approach? “Everyone regardless of size has to work with every spec, but yes, Cisco would prefer the move to DAA to be delayed,” was the controversial response from Nicometo.

The conversation moved swiftly on to fiber, as we highlighted how there appears to be a closing window of opportunity for broadband technologies like G.fast and MoCA Access, while DOCSIS 3.1 appears to be immune to the arrival of FTTH – for now anyway. “The general construction costs for FTTH deployments is just a killer for service providers,” was the short answer for DOCSIS 3.1 demand.

However, DOCSIS 3.1 players often gloss over the fact that almost no broadband players offering 1 Gbps outside of the US do so with anything other than fiber. A report from our research arm Rethink TV on 1 Gbps broadband shows that China will not use cable, and yet will leave the US way behind over the next five years on how rapidly it embraces 1 Gbps broadband. The report shows that globally, over the next five years, 1 Gbps lines will rise to make up 31% of all broadband – around 340.5 million by 2023, while if you include fiber at slower speeds, this will be as high as 60% of all broadband.

While fiber presents a very real threat to the legacy cable guys today, 5G fixed wireless access services could prove more deadly. “5G is definitely in the category of things that keep us up at night. We don’t see this as a revolution but a resolution from operators, although the amount of money which was poured into 4G now looks like nothing in comparison to 5G. Questions remain like what distance you will have to be from a 5G access point in a home,” said Nicometo. He went on to describe a utopian future akin to the novel Ready Player One, whereby DOCSIS and 5G technologies will converge to provide sufficient bandwidth and ubiquitous coverage. Naturally, nothing is this simple, with Nicometo stressing this can only be achieved through partnerships.

“DOCSIS has at least another decade to thrive, in which time the technology can help support the increased demand for wireless services,” is an apt sentiment from Nicometo to close out on.

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