Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Benefits of DOCSIS 3.1

Author: Drew Kempen, Consulting Systems Engineer

DOCSIS 3.1 has finally arrived! After years of talk and development, we are finally beginning to see the initial roll-outs of this next-generation technology. A few years have passed since the benefits of DOCSIS 3.1 were touted. 

Are those benefits still relevant today? It's worth revisiting.

In order to fully understand the benefits of DOCSIS 3.1, it is necessary to understand the boundaries of DOCSIS 3.0. DOCSIS 3.0 was a transformational technology in its own right and time. It provides the capacity to provide up to 1 GB of data to a service group, the ability to offer a high class of service, and provides many features and functionality that help operators with managing the customer, reporting, and reliability. 

Over time, the strengths of DOCSIS 3.0 become its weakness. The ability to achieve 1 GB downstream with up to 32 QAM becomes a limitation. Long-term bandwidth projections predict that DOCSIS 3.0 will begin to reach maximum capacities as soon as 2019 (without continuing to scale down service group sizes). In addition, competition driving 1 GB classes of service has accelerated the need for something beyond DOCSIS 3.0. The once high service group capacities of 3.0 platforms are now no longer enough. As service groups migrate to smaller and smaller groups of homes passed to manage bandwidth availability, more and more ports are required. The continual scaling of chassis, optics and other equipment to accommodate this growth becomes unsustainable. 

To put this scale into perspective, some operators have said they will need to split nodes from 4 to 10x what they are today over the next 10 years. And this is with the full capacity used on 3.0 chassis. The result would be 10x the CMTS chassis, 10x the optics, and 10x the nodes. Facilities, rack space and power requirements cannot scale with this growth. 

For a time, these inevitabilities were pushing many operators to consider a wholesale infrastructure transition to FTTH and PON technologies. The challenge with this was the complete overhaul of the entire network from video, to data provisioning, to OSP cabling and equipment to CPE. The cost, technology and knowledge change and disruption to the customers (and roadsides) made this a very unattractive option.

Enter DOCSIS 3.1. The first problem solved is the 32 channel limitation. DOCSIS 3.1 provides the ability to bond much larger groups of spectrum together to provide a true 1 GB Class of service and beyond. This also assists in the scaling problem. Whereas before, node segmentation would often be required when groups meet the 32 QAM limitation; the ability to use the full spectrum for data removes that requirement. 

DOCSIS 3.1 also allows for enhanced spectral efficiency. For math purposes, consider that a 3.0 256 QAM channel provides approximately 40 MB of throughput. DOCSIS 3.1 uses Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) technology that allows QAM modulations to reach 1, 2, 4k and beyond. A 1k QAM provides approximately 50 MB of throughput or a 25% increase in the same amount of spectrum. When you combine this capability with distributed access architectures (DAA), we see added improvement resulting in 4k QAM modulation and beyond. Therefore, DOCSIS 3.1 provides the bandwidth with more ‘bang for its buck’. 

High level-comparison features and capabilities of Next-Gen 3.1 platforms vs legacy 3.0. *Numbers may vary slightly by vendor chassis

Originally, the new DOCSIS 3.1 and DAA technologies were designed with smaller and smaller cascades in mind. However, testing has shown that improvements can be made over some of the longer cascades that exist today. For example, it is possible to achieve 1024 QAM where 256 QAM currently exists. This improved performance continues to increase as you get down to smaller and smaller cascades. 

Addressing the Upstream

As data rates increase, the upstream continues to become more and more of a choke point. Studies suggest that the upstream capacity should be 10% of the highest class of service offered. For example, for a 1 GB service to be fully functional, approximately ~100MB of upstream throughput is required. As larger and larger data pipes are brought to each service group, the upstream limits will be pushed. DOCSIS 3.0 allows for a 5-85 upstream, allowing room for growth to handle this change. DOCSIS 3.1 pushes the split to 5-200 which allows for HFC systems to theoretically achieve a GB symmetrical service. 

The Importance of DAA 

DAA architectures such as Remote Phy or Remote Mac/Phy are inseparable from DOCSIS 3.1 when discussing the benefits next-gen DOCSIS platforms. While 3.1 chassis do traditionally offer a higher amount of port density in a chassis, this still becomes a limitation of the box. The next generation of CCAP platforms have more throughput potential than the physical RF output limitations can take advantage of. DAA becomes extremely valuable in that it removes that limitation by providing a digital link to the node itself, eliminating the limitation of physical RF ports. This also provides better link performance which continues to compliment the ability to achieve higher orders of modulation (better throughput performance across the same amount of spectrum). 

Improvement in MB throughput of spectrum by leveraging higher orders of modulation made possible by DOCSIS 3.1 and DAA. 

Perhaps the greatest benefit of DOCSIS 3.1 is that it dramatically extends the life of the HFC network and physical architecture. By extending the life of the physical infrastructure, it extends the life of all the assets of the network—from the video platform, existing CMTS chassis and provisioning systems, optical infrastructure, OSP, and CPE. 

The new urgency of a long-term plan

DOCSIS 3.1 in many ways did swoop in and save the day, but it also brings to light a flaw and errors that cannot be made again. For nearly a decade, many cable operators got trapped in operational mode without a long-term strategy. Had 3.1 not come along, the push to get to FTTH would be exploding at a rate that the supply cannot provide. 3.1 has brought new life to existing infrastructure and has allowed for a more graceful migration to fiber deep, higher bandwidth capacities, system upgrades, service migration and virtualization. All of these solutions need to be executed with an eye on the longer term future, to ensure that the things we do today compliment the needs of tomorrow instead of simply extending the limits of the past.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

CCI Is Making Investments

CTO Matt Reath explains how CCI is preparing for the future of service providers.

Over the past few years, service providers across America have been challenged with increased costs, increased complexity, changing regulations, security, and most importantly, a changing consumer. Consumers have more choices and more options than ever before when it comes to how they consume content, how they access the Internet and the number of cloud-enabled devices they have. This puts pressure on service providers to increase capacity but not necessarily increase price. 

CCI Systems’ (CCI) unique perspective as both a solutions-focused value-added reseller and a service provider fuels a deep understanding of these challenges. As your clients’ needs change, CCI is taking the steps necessary to ensure those needs are met. We are investing in key technologies and solutions that will enable our clients to create higher customer satisfaction, offer additional services to capture more revenue, and optimize their operations to create a strong bottom-line.

Investment 1: Security

CCI has launched a Cyber Security Practice lead by dual-CCIE Adam Harden. This Practice is unique with its focus on service provider networks. CCI’s Cyber Security Assessment Workshops (CSWAP) program can get a provider on track with a Security Improvement Plan (SIP) that can serve as a personalized guide book of how to secure their network. Security services ranging from DDoS detection and mitigation to clean subscriber access. This will further enable providers to protect network infrastructure, improve their customer experience, and overall improve the performance of their network.

Investment 2: Data Center & Cloud

CCI continues to invest in its Data Center & Cloud Practice to evolve with the changing service provider landscape. The Practice takes two solution approaches. The first approach, internal virtualization, enables providers to reduce operating expenses by consolidating all company servers and storage into a central data center. Providers can gain space, reduce power consumption, and through orchestration—manage it as an integrated solution. The second approach, revenue creation, enables providers to generate new revenue by investing in a data center that includes orchestration and automation. Providers will gain the ability to create and deploy unique value-added managed offerings for their subscribers. A few examples include managed firewalls, virtual CPE services, hosted Wi-Fi, and secure SLA-backed storage.

Investment 3: Hosted Services

Service providers are looking for ways to create additional revenue streams but don’t necessarily have the staff or know-how to launch these services on their own. CCI is investing in infrastructure, talent, and software systems to enable our clients with services ranging from Wi-Fi to virtual CPE solutions. Clients will be able to white-label CCI’s solutions to quickly build a managed service offering in their footprint.

Investment 4: Orchestration and Programmability

Service provider’s networks are becoming increasingly complex and the speed at which new services must be deployed is accelerating. CCI is investing in Cisco Network Services Orchestrator, or NSO, to provide our customers with automated solutions for some of their top business use cases. CCI’s engineers are learning Python and other automation tools. We are investing in new talent and creating industry partnerships to bring the best solutions to our service provider customers.

CCI wants to translate our 60 plus years of expertise into benefits for service providers by addressing their biggest challenges today while preparing them for changes down the road. We work with our customers as a true ‘across the network’ solutions providing partner—enabling them to increase subscriber satisfaction, reduce costs, expand their footprint and grow revenue.

For more information on what CCI can do to help, contact us.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Bringing Intelligence to the Cable Plant

Written by: Todd Gingrass, Director of Cable and Media Solutions 

As cable operators, for years we have tried to be proactive about plant maintenance to keep services working at optimal levels and our subscribers happy. However, over the years our perception of proactive plant maintenance has mutated. A decade ago, performing 100% plant sweep and leakage detection was the go-to method for preventing outages and impairments. While that thought process was not incorrect, we all know the reality of it. Not enough time, people and resources. Staying on top of the day-to-day problems had been enough to keep us reactive in our maintenance process, making a full proactive sweep a pipe dream.

We know that a marginally well maintained plant will typically only have issues in about 50% of the actual sweep coverage. What if we could get that 50% of time back?  How would that change the bottom line as an operator? 

Getting out from behind
So how do we break that cycle of always being behind? It is easy to say we are too busy to get out and be proactive, but the reality is much more difficult. 
  • What if we could be proactive and not have to physically “get out there”? 
  • What if we could harness available data from the plant and mix that with decades of good old cable know-how to identify portions of the plant that need the most help? 
  • What if that could help me prioritize my day so when time is spent, it produces the most valuable results?
The answer, it’s all possible today!

Cable modems have been able to tell us a lot about plant performance for quite some time. As an industry, we have been slow to realize and take advantage of these technological advancements. While it is by no means “simple” to make all of this work, it is worth it on the backside.  

The new generation of modern intelligence
During the later stages of DOCSIS 3, modems on the market were able to capture the entire forward bandwidth—not just the original “sliding window” of 40 or 80 MHz, but the entire spectrum from around 50 MHz to 1 GHz. If this “capture” sounds familiar, it should. It’s basically a visualization of the frequency response of the forward bandwidth, otherwise known as… you guessed it, a basic sweep response.
With the new DOCSIS 3.1 standard out and vendors now going through certification, this and many other maintenance tools have been built into both CMTS and cable modems. Imagine being able to see the sweep response of your entire plant from a computer without ever leaving the office. Add on top of that, the fact that before we would typically sweep amp to amp, but now we are basically sweeping modem to modem. You can now see down to the tap where an impairment might present itself.

Actionable intelligence  
The prior example is only one of the potential tools that is or soon will be available to us as operators. Now imagine automating those steps so that information can be acted upon immediately, rather than having to spend hours analyzing and prioritize large amounts of data. We could really start to affect the days of our plant staff, allowing them to increase their productivity and get back to being preventative. This modification of how we view and handle plant maintenance will have a great impact on our real goals: 

As an operator, CCI understands how hard it is to stay ahead and offer the great services that we promise our subscribers. That’s why we have taken our 60+ years of industry experience and changed the game by building these types of tools. We use them ourselves and have seen first-hand how taking a truly proactive approach positively impacts our business.  

If you’re interested in discussing Managed Services for your network, reach out to CCI or follow us on social media.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Cisco Recognizes Winners

Each year the CCI team gets amped up for the first week of March. A week known to the select few as Cisco Partner Summit, a premier event attended by over 1,000 top Cisco partners from 75 different countries, to celebrate success and chart the future.

To CCI, the Partner Summit is an opportunity for gathering with friends, elbow rubbing with executives, strategic discussions, technology updates and recognition of top preforming partners. A week to reflect on the past year, and build a plan to accomplish even more the following year; goals are set, commitments are made and achievements are recognized.

Attempting to leave IMT Sunday afternoon
This year, the CCI team consisting of John Jamar, CEO; Joe Smith, CSO; Matt Reath, CTO; Bill Peters, director of strategic sales;  Eric Hiatt, director of sales; and Kae McGuire, director of sales operations, made the journey to San Diego (a two day trip for some due the unforeseen Upper Michigan weather).

Day 1 consisted of a keynote presentation by the newly appointed CEO of Cisco, Chuck Robbins, where he discussed digital transformation and Cisco's strategy in getting there. 

Day 2 was the day we were waiting for, the Global Awards Reception. CCI Systems was recognized with the Architectural Excellence US: SP Architectures award for our innovation, leadership and best practice as a Cisco business partner across the US. CEO, John Jamar and CSO, Joe Smith accepted the award on behalf of CCI which recognized CCI for our commitment and innovation in the SP market space.  

Cisco Partner Summit Theatre awards reflect the top-performing partners within specific technology markets across the US. All award recipients are selected by a group of Cisco Global Partner Organization and regional and theatre executives. 
CCI & Cisco Teams celebrating success
Day 3 of the summit continues today and wraps up Thursday afternoon. As the team heads home from San Diego there will be many takeaways and action items that have developed over the course of a few short days. In the coming weeks CCI will be collaborating to develop strategies on how are we going to not only continue our success together with Cisco, but how we will grow, powered by partnership.

Follow our live summit updates on Twitter @ccisystemsinc or Facebook .

Thursday, January 21, 2016

An Action Packed Year Planned for NCTC WEC 2016

CCI is gearing up to head to sunny Phoenix for the annual NCTC Winter Education Conference (WEC), where over 850+ NCTC members gather for the yearly educational event and vendor showcase. 

This year, CCI is excited! Probably the most excited we've been in a long time and there's a good reason for it. We've got something new to introduce to cable operators; something "state-of-the-art" or "revolutionary" as our engineers are calling it. CCI's Managed Services solutions consist of four components aimed at creating extensive value and cost savings for service providers. The component we're most excited about is CCI's cloud based network monitoring software.

Our cloud based monitoring software has two features we are sure you'll be interested in hearing about, but first, ask yourself these questions:
  •  Are you tired of being behind on plant maintenance? 
  •  Are you tired of not getting the network support you need? 
  • Are you tired of not having monitoring tools that give you actionable info?
If you are feeling any of these pains, keep reading. Heck - stop reading and call us, immediately! We need to talk. We can help.

The first feature, the "Outage Detection" tool, is capable of detecting an outage as it's happening. Big deal, you may say. Correct! It is a big deal. This tool will not only alert you of an outage as it's happening, but it will also pinpoint the location of the outage, saving you time troubleshooting and money by not having to roll excess trucks. Think of how relieved your customers will be to know you are already aware of the issue in their community and you've got technicians onsite looking into the problem. Churn rates will decrease and your outages will be resolved quicker.

The next piece of the super-amazing, ground-breaking, earth-shattering (by now you should be convinced this is a big deal) announcement is that not only can the hosted software detect an outage, it can also alert you BEFORE an outage. The "Plant Impairment" tool is able to identify and correlate modem problems within specific service areas before they result in an outage, and ultimately, a sizable headache for yourself.

The picture below shows snapshots of one of our customer's cable plant. CCI was able to alert them of possible issues within a service area. They then sent their tech to troubleshoot the location that was experiencing signal issues and corrected the problem before the customers were affected by a lapse in service - customer service nightmare averted! 

The third and final piece to this already amazing announcement is that you can try our hosted network monitoring software FREE for 60 days! Stop by and visit Todd and Zach at booth #605 to view a live demo and discuss your free trial. The demo will be fired up and ready to show you all the amazing features. We'll gladly show you what it's capable of and awe you with the flashy screen shots and mobile tech view, but most importantly we'll be able to show you how it will save you money and increase your subscriber satisfaction rates.

As an added bonus, CCI will also have Director of Technical Operations, Chad Kay, on-hand to discuss your TFS and outside plant needs, including:
  • FCC Proofs
  • Fiber Splicing
  • Sweep & Certification 
 Stop by and discuss you plant needs or upgrade thoughts with Chad. 

By now you should be jumping out of your seat searching for our phone number. You want to talk to us, you need to talk to us! Don't fret. We'll be available during the show and anytime before or after to discuss your network needs. Stop by our booth #605 or contact us to discuss your free trial.

CCI is the only partner who can consult, design, build, manage and support your entire RF, IP, Wi-Fi and optical networks. We can help you determine what to do, how to do it and have the expertise to get you there. 

For more information visit our website  or follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

NTCA & Rural Wireless Association Seek CCI for Wi-Fi Expertise


Keith Jones to Join Panel Discussion at 2016 Wireless Symposium & WiExpo


Keith Jones, PSS Wi-Fi
January 4, 2016 - CCI's Product Sales Specialist, Keith Jones, has been asked to join a panel of experts at the upcoming Wireless Symposium and WiExpo sponsored by the NTCA and the Rural Wireless Association (RWA). The event will take place January 25-27 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Jones and Managing Partner at Pivot, Bernie Arnason, will be discussing how broadband providers are maximizing the value of  Wi-Fi networks, tips on generating new revenue, explain how costs can be reduced and give you a strategy to successfully deploy a Wi-Fi network in your footprint.

For more information visit the NTCA website or join Keith and Bernie at 9:15 a.m. on January 26th as they discuss "Carrier Grade Wi-Fi -- Smooth Sailing".

To discuss your network's Wi-Fi options, contact Keith at or check out what we did in Sturgis, SD.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Industry Heavy Hitters Join CCI Systems Engineering Team

Jason Sowers and Adam Harden Bring Experience to CCI Territory Teams

CCI Systems, a network solutions provider, recently hired two well-known experts in the communication industry, to lead sales engineering duties in the regional territories of the Midwest and the South and focus on expanding CCI’s Datacenter and Security solution offerings.

As data demands rise, the service provider’s ability to offer more bandwidth becomes a necessity. CCI has been actively growing and expanding internal resources to provide the necessary support our customers require,” said Director of Sales Engineering, Trevor Pankonien. “Hiring both Jason and Adam proves CCI’s commitment to providing the best solutions available to the SP market.”

Jason Sowers, Sr. SE
Minnesota local, Jason Sowers, joins CCI from CommScope, where he held the position of director technical sales and was responsible for designing solutions for Hyperscale Datacenters. Prior to his position at CommScope, Sowers was employed by Cisco as a systems engineer focused on designing customer solutions for Optical, Ethernet, MPLS and voice services.

During his tenure at Cisco, Sowers earned several recognitions, including SE of the Quarter multiple times, SE Excellence Award and was the winner of the Cisco Architectural Idol presentation contest. Sowers also holds an Associate’s degree in Microcomputer and Network Technology from Northwest Technical College.

His technical proficiency and passion, as well as Cisco expertise, Network Security, Architecture and Design experience are among the notable skills he possess that make him a valuable asset to CCI and their customers in the Midwest.

Another well-known industry name within the Security, Datacenter and Architecture segment is Adam Harden, Texas resident and former Cisco advanced services network consulting engineer, who brings along valuable knowledge and training to benefit the SP’s in the South.
Adam Harden, Sr. SE

Throughout his 20 year career, Harden’s focus has narrowed to Network Security, DMZ Architecture, firewalls, VPN technologies, Datacenter and Virtualization, Cloud Network Design, NAC, 802.11 and wireless solutions. His training and real life practice working for government, hospitality, healthcare and private corporations gives CCI the edge required to develop security solutions for any type of customer need.

Harden was trained by the United States Marine Corps as a TOW Gunner, and currently holds multiple Cisco certifications, including the prestigious Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) networking certification in Security and Routing and Switching. He also earned the globally recognized, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification, proving his deep technical and managerial competence, skills, experience and credibility to design, engineer, implement and manage information security programs. 

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