CommScope launches vCMTS just in time for hybrid DOCSIS

Commscope announced a new virtualized cable modem termination system (vCMTS) as operators prepare for DOCSIS 4.0 upgrades in their network. Notably, the company’s “vCore” achieved higher speeds than its other CMTS architectures during recent tests demonstrating cable companies can hit over 8 Gbps with a mix of new and old gear.

As part of several CableLabs interoperability events this year CommScope confirmed the ability to run a DOCSIS 4.0 modem with its current generation of CMTS architectures. Arcadyan, Casa Systems, Cisco, Harmonic, Sagemcom, Ubee, Vantiva and Vecima also participated at those events.

Using the vCore architecture CommScope achieved 8.7 gigabits per second in the downstream. Rather than using an end-to-end DOCSIS 4.0 system, this was done using the DOCSIS 3.1 vCMTS in a high split configuration and a DOCSIS 4.0 modem.

Guy Sucharczuk, CommScope SVP of access network solutions, said demonstrating the highest industry speeds with its vCore with DOCSIS 4.0 modems was “especially notable.”

CommScope is relatively late to the game in launching a virtualized CMTS platform. Last year a Dell’Oro survey showed that providers across the industry were decisively interested in deploying some variant of a vCMTS to improve latent capacity on converged cable access platforms (CCAP).

Other infrastructure providers like Harmonic and Casa Systems have had vCMTS products on the market since as early as 2018, with Harmonic’s CableOS platform already connected to about 18.4 million modems worldwide.

Dell’Oro VP Jeff Heynen noted that up until now, there's been conjecture in the industry as to what CommScope’s strategy would be for a virtualized CMTS architecture. “I guess now they're all in on the virtual CMTS space, which is probably a good thing,” Heynen told Fierce. “I mean, there were many operators who were waiting to see what the company was going to do with that.”

It’s better late than never for the company, as Heynen expects there will be “many operators” that deploy DOCSIS 4.0 modems with DOCSIS 3.1 CMTS, and that now can include CommScope’s virtualized platform for more competitive speed than its older CMTS architectures.

CommScope VP of product and strategy Craig Coogan said a hybrid 3.1/4.0 DOCSIS setup will provide cable operators with a "bridging technology" to extend the life of investments they've made on the 3.1 generation.

“We are enabling operators who have invested in our technology to be able to extend that to get to higher speeds than would have been possible with DOCSIS 3.1 only,” Coogan told Fierce. Operators can choose to only upgrade modems to DOCSIS 4.0 for the subscribers who take the highest tiers of service “without having to touch the cable plant itself,” he said, although they might have to apply some licensing or software upgrades on CMTS side of things.

While these speeds are not fully symmetrical, from a downstream service perspective they can be “sort of on par” with the current PON-based service offerings, Coogan added. In the case where cable operators are overbuilt, this means they “can compete more readily.”

Heynen agreed that this is especially useful for cable operators that need a quick solution to remain competitive on the speed side. He said the hybrid DOCSIS 3.1 CMTS+DOCSIS 4.0 modem setup competes “very well” with the fiber deployments happening right now, even those using XGS-PON (a 10-Gigabit-capable fiber passive optical network).

“For cable operators, particularly here in North America, this is important for them to be able to advertise these billboard speeds that exceed what most fiber providers are offering today, which is a symmetric 1/1 Gbps or even a symmetric 2/2 Gbps service,” Heynen added.

Additionally, this method of extending DOCSIS 3.1’s lifespan can buy operators more time before they need to upgrade to an end-to-end DOCSIS 4.0 system, considering the first generation of 4.0 modems are likely going to be “quite expensive.”

Heynen said for many operators that can get these kinds of speeds by "only swapping out the modem and then doing some software upgrades to the existing CCAP they have in place, that's far preferable than having to go out and replace amps or upgrading amps and upgrade nodes.”