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Remote PHY…and more Acronyms!

DOCSIS technology continues to stretch the life of the HFC plant. Remote PHY (R-PHY) is the latest technology in a long line of evolutions. Having witnessed the many iterations I can say Remote PHY is a real leap.

Today CSP’s (Communication Service Providers) deliver services via the HFC Plant. There are two fundamental methods to send information over fibre; linear and digital.

  • Linear is RF over fibre or analog optics.

  • Digital is content in the form of ones and zeros and a packet base architecture for fibre.

Some of the advantages of note for Digital fiber is it can travel further, Digital fibre supports more wavelengths, and supports higher order of modulations.

DAA (Distributed Access Architecture) is a method for CSPs to decentralize and virtualize headend and network functions. It harnesses the power of Digital fibre and creates a software-defined network that supports Remote PHY.  Remote PHY builds upon the CCAP (Converged Cable Access Platform) platform which CSPs have been steadily deploying. Remote PHY pushes the physical layer of the CCAP to the fiber nodes. This creates a separate access point that is interconnected with the IP network. The CCAP focuses on higher layer processing while the Remote PHY “Node” converts the services to analog format for the customer. The final mile so to speak.

Some of the benefits for the Network are:

  • More Capacity

  • Digital Fiber is more reliable

  • Reduce complexity in the Headend

  • Enhanced Performance.

Another big advantage of the Remote PHY is the Node +0 deployment. That means there are no amplifiers or line extenders after the node and between the customer premises. The CSP will add more nodes but will eliminate up to 80% of active devices. This will result in significant savings in maintaining and powering those devices. Remote PHY can take advantage of the extended spectrum up to 1.2GHz. Many of the legacy amplifiers in the field are only capable of 750MHz or 860MHz. More spectrum…more better….ahhh…just better…I mean better. You know what I mean, right?

Is that enough acronyms for ya? So, what does it all mean? Well for the customer it means more bandwidth, more speed, more services, more better…Ok, I’ll stop it.

No more RF?

For myself and my colleagues who’ve toiled away in this business we may actually be witnessing the end of RF in the Headends. Obviously, there are systems that deliver video and broadband services without RF, but they’ve always existed side by side in some form. Now, you don’t just come in one morning, flip the switch, shut off one method, and flick the switch to the new. No, no, no…that wouldn’t be any fun!

The CSP Headends are going to experience and massive ‘Churn’ as the industry migrates to a CCAP/DAA/Remote PHY/IP Video solution to deliver services and bandwidth. This will require strategic planning that will involve detail planning for space, power, and cooling in CSP’s facilities. It will require architecture and system planning to maximize the speed of deployment.

The Headends will need to support the new technology all the while supporting the existing delivery methods as both will operate in parallel for a significant period of time. Maintaining, operating, and trouble shooting will become an even more complex task. Inside Plant and Outside Plant groups will need to work closely to maintain quality for the customer. Not to mention records management. The success of any large undertaking is often found in the details. Document, document, document…and by that, we can say data. Where’s your information, your data? The smart operators will leverage Business Intelligence and Data Analysis as their networks evolve.

With any industry there are ebbs and flows. It’s exciting to see a real tipping point on the horizon as the Broadband industry prepares to take a big leap forward. Because let’s face it, the buzz has already begun for Ultra HD, IoT, and 5G. These services will require a solid Network to support them. So, are we having fun yet?

By Doug McCluskey, PTech, Network & Broadband Specialist Missing Link Technologies Ltd.

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