Comcast gets its first prototype DOCSIS 4.0 amps from CommScope

Comcast took another step toward its rollout of DOCSIS 4.0 later this year, announcing it now has prototypes of a critical network element – full duplex-capable amplifiers – in hand. The amps are being supplied by CommScope.

The prototypes are based on CommScope’s STARLINE MiniBridger platform, which Comcast already has deployed in its network. However, they’re different in a few key ways. First, they incorporate new electronics with noise cancellation technology. An operator representative told Fierce they also include a built in DOCSIS 3.1 modem which will offer real time visibility into the performance of each RF link.

Comcast’s prototype announcement comes after it conducted a DOCSIS 4.0 demonstration in September which used full duplex amplifiers based on a Broadcom reference design. The operator representative said the difference between those and the prototype delivered by CommScope is that the former were “development platforms used to test and qualify” the technology. Thus, “this is a big step forward towards deployment readiness.”

The operator has said previously that it plans to be in the market with DOCSIS 4.0 by the second half of 2023 and expects to be able to upgrade its network at a gross cost of less than $200 per passing. Asked if Comcast believes it can get reasonable pricing on the FDX amps it needs given it is one of the first to deploy the technology, the representative reiterated the aforementioned cost per passing.

In terms of what the announcement means for CommScope, SVP and President of Access Network Solutions (ANS) Guy Sucharczuk stated “RF Amplifiers are one of the key growth products within our ANS portfolio.”

Earlier this month, the vendor announced it shipped a total of 1 million amps in 2022, a figure Dell’Oro Group VP Jeff Heynen said was likely 1.5 to 2 times its normal annual output. At the time, Heynen said that figure was probably just a foretaste of the amount that would be shipped for the DOCSIS 4.0 upgrade wave given there are between 15 million and 17 million amps in North American networks alone.

Indeed, Sucharczuk noted “these million amplifiers shipped, in addition to the prior existing millions of CommScope amplifiers in the market, become candidates for upgrade to DOCSIS 4.0.”