“There’s more than one way to skin a cat” could be the motto for cable operators in the midst of significant network overhauls. Some operators are deploying Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) equipment, others are reclaiming spectrum or otherwise prepping their infrastructure for DOCSIS 3.1, while still others are putting in new fiber-optic cable.
What all these network projects have in common is that they’re expensive. A report from Amdocs and Viavi showcases various approaches operators can use to help ease the cost burden:
- Offset CAPEX with OPEX savings and additional revenue generation in the future
- CAPEX declines from certain system and architecture options
- Advanced test, measurement and deployment planning tools
Systems and architecture
When it comes to reductions in network deployment costs from a systems and architecture perspective, the report indicates that virtualization offers more promise than does the CCAP or DOCSIS 3.1 option. Virtualization will come from the new generation of virtual CCAP offerings or as part of a separate evolution to distributed access architecture (DAA). Either way, virtualization offers a move away from complex and expensive hardware toward more server-like platforms. This will make the deployment of new network infrastructure, as well as upgrades of existing links, less expensive, per the report.
Testing and measurement
Meanwhile, however, test and measurement costs—based on how customers now access and consume content—threaten to make deployment more of a burden for cable operators. For example, while CCAP will reduce equipment costs and improve network flexibility, it will require technicians who formerly specialized in one of three areas, i.e., video, data or physical layer testing, to become versed in all three. Plus, test shortcuts and procedures commonly applied in an analog environment may no longer work in CCAP’s digital domain.
The good news is that test instrument suppliers are moving quickly to address these concerns. And while nothing will fully replace adequate training, test instrument developers are helping to bridge the knowledge gap with automated test procedures and tools that attach to the cloud. Cloud access will also help technicians collaborate with other knowledge workers, as well as scan histories and other records at will. Any of these advances can speed installation and save money.
Complex deployment scenarios, such as a major fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) rollout, can be stymied if the various departments within a cable operator’s operations can’t easily share data or escape organizational, and this is compounded when contractors are hired to supplement in-house resources. To avoid miscommunication, duplication of efforts and lack of visibility into the entire team’s actions, cable operators are leveraging emerging orchestration tools to produce a more coherent picture of a project’s status—and save money. Once in place, the orchestration platform will ease the management of disparate tasks through automation and data mining functions.
The thread running through all of these cost-saving measures is automation. Other avenues for cost savings exist, of course, but—across the board—automation eliminates human error and waste: in both time and money. Cable operators that take advantage of technology advances to improve network deployments will save money in the long run.