Charter’s DOCSIS 4.0 pieces fall into place with Harmonic, Vecima deals

**Update: After publication, Vecima put out a press release confirming Charter was indeed the operator it was referring to in its earlier deal announcement.**

Charter Communications is kicking its DOCSIS 4.0 network upgrade plan into high gear, making what appears to be its second vendor selection in two weeks. Dell’Oro Group VP Jeff Heynen said the announcements – which include the selection of Harmonic’s virtual cable modem termination system (vCMTS) this week – show Charter is moving “quickly and aggressively” to execute on an upgrade timeline it laid out in December.

An operator representative told Fierce Charter will use both Harmonic’s cloud-native CableOS core platform - which Comcast has also deployed - as well as the vendor's Remote PHY hardware. Harmonic’s website notes CableOS can be deployed in either a centralized or distributed access architecture (DAA) and can support hybrid deployments of cable and fiber. Charter has notably said it plans to transition to DAA and will selectively deploy fiber where there is demand.

The news comes after Vecima announced last week that a major Tier-1 operator in North America – widely believed to be Charter – selected its Entra Remote PHY system for a 10G network upgrade. 

Only three months have passed since Charter unveiled its DOCSIS 4.0 roadmap. While the choice of Harmonic isn’t necessarily a surprise given the vendor’s leadership position on vCMTS, Heynen said the move represents a “very quick decision” compared to the normal timeline for vendor selection.

“I think everything for Charter changed back in December when they announced they were moving away from Remote MAC PHY to Remote PHY,” he said. “They realized, I think, that from a DAA perspective they’re behind and they need to catch up quickly.”

Behind, of course, is a relative term, with the comparison primarily being made to fellow cable giant Comcast. Heynen said at a recent industry event Comcast stated it has already deployed 81,000 Remote PHY devices and is adding between 1,500 to 2,000 per week.

Heynen said there's a good reason Charter appears to have chosen more than one Remote PHY vendor. That’s because while the vCMTS mostly comprises software and servers, Remote PHY includes much more hardware – everything from the node housing to the screws that seal the nodes shut. And delays getting any of those hardware components “can present problems,” he said. Thus, supply chain diversity is a must.

Beyond what's already been announced, Heynen noted Charter will also need choose suppliers for 1.8 GHz amplifiers and coax caps. For those puzzle pieces, Heynen said he has his eye on ATX, CommScope and Teleste.

From Harmonic’s perspective, Heynen said the Charter deal is “a significant win,” especially because it means the company now supplies the number one and number two cable operators on the world. It will also likely be a financial boon. Indeed, Harmonic recently noted Comcast accounted for nearly half its revenue in Q4.

However, Harmonic declined to comment on how significant an impact it expects the Charter deal to have on its financials in both the short and long term and how many operators might follow down the vCMTS path this year.