Cloudifying Cable Infrastructure: Challenges Ahead for Operators

As MSOs shift to Distributed Access Architectures, visibility down to the fiber is paramount.

City at night looking over horizon with lines of lights depicting underground cables

It is no surprise that internet usage continues to rapidly grow, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, when work-from-home became commonplace. In fact, from 2000 to 2022, global bandwidth consumption increased by 1,355 percent.

This has created considerable new challenges for cable/ multiple system operators (MSOs) who are upgrading their networks to ensure sufficient bandwidth to support emerging use cases such as 1 Gbps service tiers, 4K video, and VPN as well as workplace collaboration solutions such as audio and video conferencing.

MSOs are moving toward Distributed Access Architecture (DAA), extending the digital network of the headend or hub sites out to the fiber-optic node. DAA is an important first step toward cloudification of cable infrastructure. By replacing the analog optics from the headend, operators can effectively shift their fiber links to digital fiber Ethernet links, thereby increasing available bandwidth and enhancing the efficiency of their fiber. 

MSOs Also Turning to FTTx 

With so many employees working remotely, there is greater demand for high-speed internet service provider–reliant video conferencing services and other over-the-top (OTT) applications. MSOs are under increased pressure to ensure service availability and deliver the highest-quality service. When problems occur and service is disrupted or compromised, operators receive trouble tickets, compelling the rollout of service personnel to resolve issues, which ends up being particularly costly for the business. Bad press in social media also adds to frustration and keeps pressure on everyone involved.

Fiber to the x (FTTx) offers critical advantages. In FTTx, both the data over cable service interface specifications media access control (DOCSIS MAC) layer and the physical (PHY) layer are moved to the fiber node, which supports much higher capacity. And because radio frequency signals are initiated at the node, DAA can deliver a higher signal-to-noise ratio, in turn enabling a higher quality of service and a better customer experience. 

The Need for Improved Visibility into Complex DAA Architectures

MSOs are adopting DAAs to leverage cloudification to lower latency all the way down to homes and businesses. But as the traditional cable modem termination system (CMTS) is deconstructed and major functions are pushed out farther to the edge, the resulting complexity presents significant challenges related to ensuring quality of service.

With multiple vendors involved in this new distributed DAA model, MSOs have their hands full achieving sufficient visibility across the infrastructure to gain insights into service availability. 

This is where NETSCOUT’s Visibility Without Borders platform can be a game-changer for operators. With packet-level visibility in distributed locations, NETSCOUT creates smart analytics that deliver actionable insights. These insights allow for effective control plane and user plane troubleshooting supported by historical packet evidence. 

This vendor-independent visibility allows for fault isolation that identifies where packets have been dropped and where transactions fail. It also reveals service availability, showing how many subscribers are out of service by dimension as well as congestion and throughput per subscriber.

The benefits of having complete visibility down into DAA means MSOs can accurately pinpoint service issues before trouble tickets are even issued by customers. This translates into fewer truck rolls, which means reduced costs. At the same time, the ability to maintain lower latency results in a better, more reliable user/subscriber experience. NETSCOUT offers an important advantage as MSOs distribute their infrastructure closer to the edge on the road to promising new business growth opportunities.
  Learn more about visibility into DAA.