CableLabs® New Remote PHY Specifications expand DOCSIS® Network deployment options

Karthik Sundaresan
Distinguished Technologist

Jul 7, 2015

DOCSIS technology continues to extend the usefulness of the hybrid fiber coaxial network and increase its global adoption. Distributed Architectures for DOCSIS networks are emerging that provide significant scale advantages and flexible deployment options supporting for both DOCSIS 3.0 and DOCSIS 3.1 networks. Distributed DOCSIS deployments are beginning today in some markets based on the earlier C-DOCSIS specifications.

New Specification Release

CableLabs is documenting several different Distributed CCAP Architectures (including Remote PHY and Remote MAC-PHY) and will release the set of technical reports and specifications throughout this summer.

Last month, CableLabs publicly issued the Remote PHY family of specifications. Theses specifications are also known as MHAv2 as these are an evolution from the original Modular Headend Architecture specifications.

The Remote PHY technology allows for an integrated CCAP to be separated into two components: the CCAP Core and the Remote PHY Device (RPD) and describes the interfaces between them. One of the common locations for an RPD is the optical node device that is located at the junction of the fiber and coax plants, while the CCAP Core stays at the headend. A CCAP core can control and setup data paths with multiple RPDs situated in multiple fiber nodes.



What is Remote PHY?

The Remote PHY technology uses pseudowires between a CCAP Core and a set of RPDs. The CCAP Core contains both a CMTS Core for supporting DOCSIS data transport and an Edge QAM Core for supporting video transport. The CMTS Core contains the DOCSIS MAC (signaling functions, downstream and upstream bandwidth scheduling, and DOCSIS framing) and the upper layer protocols. Remote PHY supports both DOCSIS 3.0 & 3.1 Specifications. The EQAM Core contains all the video processing functions that an EQAM provides today.

The RPD contains mainly PHY related circuitry, such as downstream QAM and OFDM modulators, upstream QAM and OFDM demodulators, together with pseudowire logic needed to connect to the CCAP Core. The RPD platform is a physical layer converter device whose functions are to convert downstream DOCSIS data, MPEG video and out-of-band (OOB) signals received from a CCAP Core over a digital fiber network such as Ethernet or passive optical network (PON) to analog RF for transmission over the coaxial cable; and to convert upstream RF DOCSIS, and OOB signals received over the coaxial cable to digital for transmission over Ethernet or PON to a CCAP Core.


The CableLabs Remote PHY technology is detailed by six specifications and one technical report (describing the overall architecture) including:

  • The System Specification that describes System level requirements such as initialization sequences and security.
  • The R-DEPI and R-UEPI specifications that describe the downstream and upstream pseudowires and the L2TPv3 control plane.
  • The GCP specification that defines a protocol used for configuration of Remote PHY Devices (RPD).
  • The R-DTI specification that defines the timing interface between the CCAP-Core and RPD.
  • The R-OOB specification that defines support for the SCTE55-1 and 55-2 out of band data for video applications.

What’s Next?

These specifications define the technology to provide guidance to vendors building solutions for the Remote PHY architecture. Vendors have begun architecting ASIC designs, device platforms and software to implement the RPD and CCAP-Core devices. The OSS requirements for managing these devices are also being specified at CableLabs and will be released as an additional specification later this summer. These distributed architectures of course support standard DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1 modems and gateways no differently than integrated architectures.

The main options under the umbrella of Distributed CCAP Architectures are the Remote PHY and the Remote MAC-PHY technologies. CableLabs’ work is in progress to document the Remote MAC-PHY architecture. This work will culminate in a technical report which will also be released this summer.

Investigating Distributed CCAP Architectures

The work around Distributed CCAP architectures (DCA) is of interest to many CableLabs members in North America, Europe and Asia. Cable operators are investigating DCA for the various gains they bring including:

  • Maximizing DOCSIS 3.1 Channel capacity
  • Simpler operations with digital fiber/Ethernet transport
  • Higher Efficiency of Digital Optics vs. Analog Optics (wavelengths, reach, cost)
  • Helps hub/headend facilities issues around space, power, and cooling as operators move towards Fiber Deep architectures or consider further Node Splits
  • Consistency with FTTx deployments which will include remote architectures for reach and wavelength management
  • Fits with the SDN/NFV initiatives operators are considering across access networks

These integrated & distributed HFC technologies have parallels, and similar features and benefits, to wireless infrastructure architectures such as Macro-cells, small-cells, Distributed Antenna Solutions, and Cloud-RAN with Remote Radio Units. These Distributed CCAP Architectures fit well in different deployment scenarios and all work cohesively together to support the varying capacity and demand in the areas where their deployments provide the best solution.

As operators look to optimize their network deployments in each of their cable plants in each of their markets it will be very interesting to see how and where these distributed CCAP technologies will be deployed in each operator’s HFC networks. It is indeed an exciting time to be working on the access network technologies and being part of the evolution it is going through.

Karthik Sundaresan is a Principal Architect at CableLabs, responsible for the development and architecture of cable access network technologies. He is primarily involved in the DOCSIS family of technologies and their continued evolution.


CableLabs Technology Adopted by China’s Cable Operators (C-DOCSIS)

Karthik Sundaresan
Distinguished Technologist

Sep 4, 2014

DOCSIS® continues to prove its strength, longevity, and relevance as a worldwide access network technology. Last week, CableLabs issued the C-DOCSIS System Specification, completing the suite of specifications known as C-DOCSIS. Cable companies in China are choosing DOCSIS as one of the technologies for offering High-Speed Data and other IP services.

CableLabs has new member companies in China, WASU Digital TV Media Group Co., Shenzhen Topway Video Communication Co., Beijing Gehua CATV Co., and Jiangsu Broadcasting Cable Information Network Corp., who provided leadership in uniting around a common set of requirements specific to the cable networks in China. The Chinese cable operators, along with the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), have been working with CableLabs to develop the technology requirements and architecture for DOCSIS equipment within China.

Cable Modem


What is C-DOCSIS?
In 2013, CableLabs published annexes to the DOCSIS 3.0 family of specifications to account for modifications for China. Previously, we had published Euro annexes to document changes necessary for the European cable plant. The new C-DOCSIS System specification defines requirements to support three different distributed CMTS architectures. The DOCSIS 3.0 Annexes and the technology options defined in the System specification are together referenced as 'C-DOCSIS'.

The C-DOCSIS System Spec introduces different options for distributed CMTS architectures, where the CMTS functionality is split between two devices. One is a Coax Media Converter (CMC) device, which bridges the optical and coax domains and resides in the Fiber Node. The other is a CMC controller, which remains at the hub site/head-end. In these architectures the hub site and the fiber node are connected by a digital optical packet link (GE, 10 GE) instead of an analog optical link. The options essentially differ in where the majority of the DOCSIS MAC Layer and PHY Layer functions reside: CMC1 (Remote MAC+PHY) where both the MAC and the PHY are pushed down to the node, CMC2 (Split MAC) where part of the MAC remains at the hub-site and part of the MAC and the PHY are pushed down to the node, and the third option CMC3(Remote PHY) where the MAC stays at the hub-site and only the PHY is moved to the fiber node.

What's Next?
At high level, these developments act as a catalyst in spurring innovations in the CMTS market place, as cable operators across the world are investigating different distributed architectures. These architectures provide myriad benefits for cable operators, including gains in PHY layer performance, hub site space and cooling improvements, and CapEx benefits from using digital optics. CMTS vendors have been actively developing innovative products in the distributed CMTS architecture space that map into one of these architectures.

Consolidating the C-DOCSIS extensions within the main line of CableLabs' DOCSIS specifications ensures that we have one DOCSIS technology that is applicable across the globe, including Europe, North America, and China. CableLabs will continue to bring the C-DOCSIS System spec and all the latest DOCSIS standards towards international standardization through contributions to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute(ETSI). We will also plan interoperability events and other testing to facilitate the growth of this ecosystem. These C-DOCSIS specifications are the first step in engaging our new members in China. It promises to benefit all of our members worldwide by bringing a larger scale to DOCSIS deployments.

Karthik Sundaresan is a Principal Architect at CableLabs, responsible for the development and architecture of cable access network technologies. He is primarily involved in the DOCSIS family of technologies and their continued evolution.