100% of cable cos say they'll be doing this within 2 years

These days it seems like it’s harder and harder to get everyone to agree on a given subject. But every single one of the 50 operators Dell’Oro Group surveyed worldwide told the analyst firm the same thing: vCMTS is coming, and it’s coming soon.

In its latest report, Dell’Oro noted 100% of operators said they have either already deployed or are planning to deploy some variant of a virtual cable modem termination system (vCMTS) within the next 24 months. 

Jeff Heynen, Dell’Oro’s VP of Broadband Access and Home Networking Research, told Fierce the unanimous result “was the biggest surprise.” It was such shock, in fact, that Dell’Oro went back to its survey respondents and asked them how they defined vCMTS. The report shows a large majority, 73%, plan to deploy Remote-PHY devices connected to a software-based vCMTS running on a server. Another 20% are pursuing Remote-MACPHY. And the remaining 7% will be using a traditional converged cable access platform (CCAP) as the MAC core with Remote-PHY nodes.

Of the survey respondents, 40% were located in North America, 34% were in Western Europe, 20% were in Latin America and the Caribbean and 6% were in the Asia-Pacific region. The survey was conducted between January and March of this year.

“We thought this can’t be right. Not every cable operator is going to do this,” Heynen said. “Given the timeframe, I thought that there would still be quite a number of operators even on larger side who would continue with the business as usual plan of splitting traditional nodes and adding more capacity on their existing CMTS or CCAP platforms.”

RELATED: Heynen's SCTE takeaways: DOCSIS 4.0 decisions loom, DAA tide turns

Reading a bit deeper into the results, Heynen added “what it maybe shows is some of the latent capacity on some of these CCAP platforms that we thought maybe may have been there is not there. And so at some point they have to move to a cap and grow plan, and if you’re going to do that then that’s going to involve a transition to the next generation platform.”

Dell'Oro did not name survey participants. However, U.S. operator Comcast has been talking up its move to vCMTS since at least 2018, while Vodafone Germany teamed with Harmonic in 2020 to roll out vCMTS.

Out of the distributed access architecture (DAA) options on the table, Heynen said Remote-PHY is likely more popular because it is already operationalized in a greater number of networks compared to Remote-MACPHY. So, as operators are going out into their networks to roll out mid-splits and high-splits on the road to DOCSIS 4.0, they’re taking the opportunity to deploy DAA with Remote-PHY.

That said, it’s still early innings. Dell’Oro found two-thirds of respondents had only deployed between 101 and 1000 Remote-PHY or Remote-MACPHY devices in their networks thus far. For context, larger operators like the Comcasts of the world likely have around 150,000 nodes in their network, while smaller players have between 10,000 and 25,000 nodes, Heynen said.

In terms of what the survey results mean for the vendor market, Heynen noted incumbent CCAP suppliers such as CommScope and Cisco stand to lose the most to lose. But, given their large installed base, they also have the most to gain if they can pivot with the market. Other vendors with the most to gain include Harmonic, Vecima and Casa Systems.


The node range for smaller operators in the second to last paragraph has been updated to reflect more accurate figures than the 35,000-60,000 originally cited.