Open Mic - Tell me again: What is CCAP?
Converged Cable Access Platform.
On June 14, coinciding with the kickoff of the NCTA’s 2011 Cable Show, CableLabs released an updated version of a technical report that outlines the requirements and operational modes for the headend device now called Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP). This update of the CableLabs document includes all of the previous requirements and adds descriptions for various operational modes intended to clarify how the same CCAP device may be used by various MSOs in different ways.
The CCAP device was previously referred to as CESAR (Converged Edge Services Access Router) by Time Warner Cable, and it was known as CMAP (Converged Multiservice Access Platform) within the set of specifications developed by Comcast and its spec partners – Cablevision, Charter, Cox, Liberty/UPC, NCTC, Rogers and European MSOs via representation from Cable Europe Labs. Moving forward, the device will be uniformly known by the new CCAP name.
The updated technical report containing the additional operational modes, plus the use of a unique and agreed-upon name, is intended to positively outline how the same device can be used by various MSOs in different ways. For example, devices compliant with the CCAP requirements could be developed in various sizes (e.g., with more or less ports), which would in turn be used by MSOs for different headend and/or hub applications. Similarly, the same CCAP device could be used by one MSO in a location where video encryption is implemented within the CCAP itself, and it could be used by the same MSO or a different one in a location where video encryption is implemented externally. Other such varying use cases for the same device are now outlined within the CCAP technical report.
As before, CCAP was specifically intended to support the growth in the number of QAM channels used for narrowcast services, such as VOD and switched digital video given the success of the services and the expansion of HDTV content, as well as the availability of channel bonding in DOCSIS 3.0 to support newer, higher-bandwidth data services. And, as MSOs continue to reduce the size of service groups to make more efficient use of their networks, and as they consider the deployment of advanced services such as IP-based video and network DVR, even more QAM modulators are needed within the same footprint and environment. CCAP devices will provide the necessary QAMper-RF-port and port-per-chassis density to support this growth while requiring less space and power than currently available equipment, reducing capital and operational costs and simplifying operations.
In doing so, a CCAP device will implement the functions of both the edge QAM and the CMTS in a consolidated platform. As a result, a single CCAP downstream port will provide all of the QAM channels for all digital services in a given service group, achieving maximum density, cost reduction and operational simplification. CCAP is designed for highavailability, multi-vendor encryption support for full spectrum or overlay HFC networks, supporting any native QAM or DOCSIS service via configuration rather than equipment or RF combiner changes.
CCAP leverages existing technologies such as CableLabs’ DOCSIS 3.0, DRFI, etc., and incorporates newer ones such as dense edge QAM architectures and Ethernet optics (EPON, in particular), and it leverages the experience acquired over many decades of technology evolution for cable networks, including new functions and features described in the CCAP specifications.
Given the cost and operational benefits, many MSOs would begin deploying CMAPtype equipment immediately if possible. Because of such immediate benefits, equipment development is progressing at a very fast pace. Initial availability of equipment for laboratory and field tests is expected by late 2011, and early deployments could begin as early as 2012. Substantial equipment availability is anticipated by 2013.
The updated technical report is available from CableLabs and can be found online. An additional upcoming specification from CableLabs will include new configuration and management technology for CCAP, and other specifications are being considered. And, as has been the case with CMTS and edge QAM equipment, additional MSO-specific requirements above and beyond the CableLabs CCAP specs will be described by individual MSOs as needed and will be available from the respective MSOs.
Hopefully this brief overview was useful. Feel free to reach out via email for additional questions and/or details.
American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew Polka will pen next month’s Open Mic column.