CommScope, ATX execs dish on DOCSIS 4.0 work

SCTE CABLE-TEC EXPO – Two key cable vendors told Fierce 1.8GHz network amplifiers – which will play a starring role in rollouts of the extended spectrum variant of DOCSIS 4.0 – are set to make their commercial debut next year. CommScope also confirmed it is working on amplifiers for the full duplex version of the spec.

In a strange way, amplifiers proved to be the stars of this year’s Cable-Tec Expo, thanks in large part to dueling node+6 demos from U.S. cable giants Comcast and Charter Communications. The latter’s showcase built on an earlier node+4 extended spectrum DOCSIS 4.0 (ESD) demo it completed in April with 1.8 GHz amps. Despite the addition of two more amps in the cascade, Charter was still able to deliver speeds of around 8.5 Gbps downstream and 5 Gbps upstream – representing a loss of just 500 Mbps downstream compared to its node+4 demo. Comcast, meanwhile, touted speeds of 6 Gbps downstream and 4 Gbps upstream in what was the first public showing of a full duplex (FDX) amp.

The catch, of course, that neither the 1.8 GHz amp nor its full duplex counterpart is commercially available yet.

CommScope VP of Product and Strategy Craig Coogan told Fierce that’ll soon change. He noted it is currently developing “basically a 1.8 GHz upgrade to our amplifier bases” which is due to hit the market in 2023.

“Generally, what we’re trying to do is maintain the housing that we have and then replace the insides,” he explained. “What that allows is the operator can keep an amplifier housing connected to the cables and so it is an easier upgrade.” He added it’s also working on 1.8 GHz taps, as well as a Remote MAC PHY device for Liberty Global.

Additionally, Coogan confirmed CommScope is developing a full duplex amplifier, a prototype of which it had on display at the show. He said he couldn’t comment on whether it was testing the amp with any operators since that information was subject to a non-disclosure agreement.

Across the show floor, ATX Networks CEO Dan Whalen told Fierce it has already taken orders from its first Tier-1 customer in the U.S. for its 1.8 GHz amps and expects deployments of its DOCSIS 4.0 amps to begin in the middle of next year. He added it has at least four other Tier-1 operators across the globe who are in the quote or RFP phase for its amplifiers, and “all of them are suggesting they want to start going to 1.8 [GHz] in the end of 2023.”

To help meet demand, Whalen noted ATX is supplementing its manufacturing capacity in Taiwan with a new U.S.-based contract manufacturing facility. Between both plants, it will be able to produce between 800,000 and 1 million amplifiers each year, he said.

The CEO stated the company has also done “early specs and designs” and prototype builds of FDX amps, but is now watching to see where Comcast’s full duplex efforts go. “At this point, we’re mainly looking at engineering and how we can fit FDX into our existing amplifiers,” he said.