Every day, Multiple System Operators run hundreds of operations in their HFC networks in order to fulfil rapid growth in the demand for faster and more reliable network connections. According to Nielsen’s Law of Internet Bandwidth, users’ need for bandwidth grows by 50% per year. Not surprisingly, cable operators are striving to harness the power of the current infrastructure to improve future bandwidth increments. They employ solutions such as service group segmentation and extension of the bandwidth to maximize access network capacity. However, each physical change in the configuration of the outer plant requires a logical configuration of the CMTS. The challenge that many companies now face is whether to outsource these DOCSIS services or to manage them internally? There are plenty of companies which provide such services. Our article covers several aspects you should consider first, before adding a new partner to your approved checklist.

Knowledge of DOCSIS technology = unique competency

As the Internet evolved and demand for high-speed data rapidly grew, MSOs understood quickly that proprietary system was a dead-end. At this point, CableLabs started to define the first cable standard base of access system – Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS). Over the years CableLabs introduced many extensions to the DOCSIS standard that evolved from DOCSIS 1.0 to the latest release DOCSIS 3.1. Compared to the previous specification, DOCSIS 3.1 allows to boost the downstream bandwidth up to 10 Gbit/s and upstream throughput by up to 1-2 Gbit/s. Higher spectral efficiency will be possible due to more advanced modulation (OFDM) and error correction (LDPC) techniques. And it’s just the beginning of the road towards multi-gigabit symmetric services over HFC networks. DOCSIS 4.0 ESD (Extended Spectrum DOCSIS) is waiting for its turn to support next-gen access networks by delivering high reliability, high security and low latency.

All of the above confirm that the DOCSIS standard is continually improving. Its know-how is considered as a unique competency when taking into account CMTS configuration. With time, it may be a repeatable and not too challenging task, especially to those who perform such configuration as part of their everyday work. It’s all about the time spent (sometimes counted in years) on learning DOCSIS technology, how to manage particular activities and operations efficiently. Therefore, engineers with strong expertise in DOCSIS technology who are aware of all the dos and don’ts provide the most significant value.

Tech-savvy team with tools that support the logical deployment

CMTS configurations are divided into two dimensions: physical configuration, taking place in a headend/hub where each CMTS card have to be configured to provide the correct data. Then there is the logical configuration that includes setting appropriate operation parameters such as interfaces or routings, defined by the operator. While remote configuring, DOCSIS engineer settles how many upstream and downstream channels these physical ports deliver: whether they are single QAM (DOCSIS 3.0) or OFDM (DOCSIS 3.1).

This process may be associated with a software upgrade, but it’s more about configuring the device through the appropriate configuration file. And that’s the pivot point: the file must be set appropriately from the very beginning. If the team responsible for the remote configuration do not identify the bugs before implementation, the operation can affect the network performance. The recommended solution, applied by experienced DOCSIS engineers, is to develop a software tool that detects any inaccuracies and creates a file free of bugs that is uploaded into the CMTS.

Fig.1 DOCSIS engineers working on a CMTS logical configuration

An agile DOCSIS engineer is essential for reliable HFC network performance

Each service that is delivered to HFC nodes must be configured and connected to the correct Cable modem termination system (CMTS). It enables operators to provide high-speed data services like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or cable internet through a converged IP network for both individual and business clients. As a result, the end customer receives the desired Internet connection. That’s why preserving uninterrupted access to the HFC network is critical when performing a logical CMTS configuration. Most of the DOCSIS engineers complete their work after the night shift when a small number of home passes use the Internet connection.

The bottom line is that to keep the network performance on the highest level, there is a need for a flexible professional who’s willing to work regardless of the time of the day. What’s more, this person will be in simultaneous contact with a field engineer responsible for a physical configuration. Therefore, excellent communication skills and the ability to react quickly to emerging issues are desirable.

The economy of outsourcing CMTS logical configuration to DOCSIS professionals

There are plenty of activities running in the operator’s network where a DOCSIS engineer is necessary. Consequently, outsourcing CMTS logical configuration to a reliable partner with an extensive DOCSIS know-how can facilitate a cable operator’s daily work. Here’s why:

  • It’s time-saving – A DOCSIS professional has a unique competency. Usually, the number of engineers working on the cable operator’s side is limited. Having an external partner resolves the problem of prioritizing the task of your employee.
  • It’s affordable – At the end of the day, the cost of the external team could be lower, bearing in mind that most of the changes need to be performed on night shifts.
  • It’s efficient – The core competencies of an experienced DOCSIS professional is related to such abilities as integrity, accuracy and the ability to solve any unexpected issue. This powerful combo is essential for network improvements as a part of the ongoing operations.
  • It’s safe – In case of an inability to provide the services by our regular team assigned to ongoing tasks, every qualified partner should switch over to its additional resources.

To sum up, before choosing the best partner, find out if they have comprehensive technical skills and the capability to adapt to your requirements quickly. First and foremost, you should consider whether you feel comfortable working with this group of people. References and case studies are advisable but remember that many of them are available on request so don’t hesitate to ask!

VECTOR TECHNOLOGIES engineers have extensive competencies in supporting HFC networks, helping Tier1 MSOs to track and solve access network bottlenecks. Here you will find the comprehensive Professional Services portfolio: https://vectortechnologies.com

Chief Operating Officer

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