The Scheduler and the Tap: The Odd Infrastructure Couple (2021)

By L. Alberto Campos, Lin Cheng, Zhensheng (Steve) Jia, Jing Wang & Chris Stengrim, CableLabs

The death or end of coaxial cable transport has been predicted in the past on more than one occasion to give way to fiber-to-the-home. The resiliency of coaxial transport, however, has proven to be quite enduring. Coaxial cable itself has not yet been used to its full potential and operators have demonstrated that with the always improving operational practices in addition to the robustness and flexibility provided by the evolving transport technologies, there are still effective means to get value out of our coaxial infrastructure investment. A key factor in this equation is that under several operator starting point scenarios, fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) deployment requires significant investment and coaxial based evolution alternatives can still address most subscriber requirements.

As it appears that coaxial based transport in the access will still be with us for quite some time, it behooves us to think how coaxial transport would look like 10+ years from now. This paper explores how a coaxial based future could evolve in the long run, what would be the implications on topology, spectrum, and technologies that we could see taking shape under the pressures of deployment costs, service offerings, operational efficiency, reliability and market competition.

Today demand for capacity and consumption patterns from subscribers is quite varied. Unfortunately, in deployments, where serving area sizes until recently consisted of about 400+ households per fiber node, there has been little flexibility to design based on the traffic characteristics that we experience. Instead to maintain acceptable levels of customer experience, we have been designing these serving groups driven by peak user speeds and competitive forces. The diversity of our subscribers’ usage patterns indicates that peak-capacity based design can leave a good amount of resources and investment on the table. Service elasticity and resulting in network elasticity to flexibly support our subscriber diversity becomes more relevant in our environment that not only caters to residential subscribers but also small businesses and wireless connectivity sharing the same coaxial infrastructure.

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