ATX’s GigaXtend Readies Cable Operators for the 50Gbps 2050 Party
by Ron Westfall | July 24, 2020

The News: ATX Networks, a provider of broadband access and media distribution solutions, launched its GigaXtend GMC family of 1.2GHz HFC amplifiers earlier this year. Each product line in the GigaXtend portfolio of nodes, amplifiers, and hardline taps and passives offer an upgrade path to 3GHz or beyond, designed to enable cable operators the opportunity to fortify today’s plants with technology that accommodates up to several decades of bandwidth expansion while minimizing operational disruption.

In addition, the GigaXtend portfolio consists of GainMaker-compatible products that are designed from the original drawings and documentation acquired through a deal with Cisco, assuring cable operators that ATX-sourced GainMaker-kindred products are sanctioned by Cisco. Read the full ATX blog.

ATX’s GigaXtend Proposition Attains Instant Differentiation through Cisco Endorsement

Analyst Take: ATX Networks is betting that its GigaXtend family of next-generation outside plant equipment, provides the comprehensive lineup of active and passive components required to enable cable operators to extend the longevity of their HFC networks by 30 years or longer. In essence, ATX is seeking to become the pivotal supplier of cable operator network transformation.

To fulfill this 30-year mission, ATX has unveiled its outside plant 2050 Project, embedding and bolstering its GigaXtend marketing across the Project’s vision. ATX notes the mid-point of the current century is 30 years away, roughly the same amount of time that cable operators have already invested in building out their Hybrid Fiber-Coax (HFC) networks. The 2050 Project is a long-term strategy for doubling the longevity of today’s HFC networks, enabling operators to migrate their extensive coaxial cable plants to fiber in the most cost-effective manner possible and without surrendering their competitive edge in broadband service delivery.

For the previous 30 years, cable network optics used analog methods, attained spectrum maximum of 1.2 GHz, supported bandwidth spans of up to 1 Gbps while relying on tech lifecycles of 8 to 10 years in combination with a centralized access architecture (CAA). This enabled delivering applications such as email and video streaming to customers.

Through its GigaXtend portfolio, ATX is proposing that cable operators can now accelerate their adoption of digital optics in order to attain spectrum maximum of 3 GHz+, support bandwidth spans ranging from 1 Gbps+ and all the way up to 50 Gbps ultimately, and extend their technology lifecycles up to 25 years+ in combination with a more agile distributed access architecture (DAA).

I believe ATX Networks is clearly differentiating its GigaXtend portfolio by showcasing the production authenticity of it GigaXtend GMC family of 1.2 GHz HFC amplifiers, which ATX acquired through an agreement with Cisco. In sum, Cisco chose ATX to carry on the distinguished heritage of the GainMaker amplifiers product line. To ATX’s competitive benefit, no other vendor can access the original documentation and drawings, assuring that the reliability and performance of the ATX’s amplifier suite are aligned with the genuine article, especially in relation to products that lack authorized tags of Cisco compatibility.

DOCSIS 3.1 Considerations: Driving New Cable Operator Commitment to DOCSIS 4.0

I see cable operators reconsidering and overhauling their commitment to the DOCSIS 3.1-enabled Deep Fiber approach in solving their long-term spectrum and bandwidth challenges. Cable operators were betting on the approach of deploying deep fiber as a part of the CableLabs DOCSIS 3.1 standard. In effect, Full Duplex DOCSIS was being developed as the next DOCSIS technology, evolving as an Annex to DOCSIS 3.1.

To be sure, I believe DOCSIS 3.1 provided cable operators with tangible technical and business case benefits including widespread deployments in the North America and EMEA regions. However, after various false starts with applying Deep Fiber and Full Duplex capabilities, cable operators plan now look to further leverage DOCSIS 3.1 with mid-split and high-split upgrades.

However, DOCSIS 3.1 return paths are paltry and insufficient for longer term operator strategic objectives. Using a 204MHz high splits for instance yields around 1.6 Gbps, translating into ~1 Gbps billboard rates due to spectrum limitations. Moreover, cable operators are exhausting built-in DOCSIS 3.1 capabilities, now far along in relying on drop-ins/node segmentation using Remote PHY Devices (RPDs) to squeeze as much as bandwidth is permissible. ATX’s GigaXtend addresses this mounting top priority of the cable operators to avoid becoming constricted in differentiating their services and defending their customer base by ~1 Gbps bandwidth limitations.

Enter DOCSIS 4.0 to the Rescue: ATX Ready to Change the Cable Operator Game

No surprise that cable operators need and want more than 1Gbps capped billboard offerings to compete long-term against telco FTTH/PON and emerging 5G FWA alternatives. I see cable operators as especially committed to boosting upstream capacity in order to provide symmetrical services that compete more directly against FTTH/PON and 5G FWA implementations.

Equally important, symmetrical services are becoming essential as organizations and businesses build and scale out their digital workforces to fulfill the stay-at-home legal mandates ushered in by the global C-19 pandemic. As a result, home offices are increasingly becoming mini-branches for businesses as remote workforces dramatically increase their adoption and use of collaboration platforms, dramatically increasing upstream bandwidth requirements.

As such, CableLabs is developing 10Gbps technologies with the goal of achieving 10Gbps service delivery, enlisting DOCSIS 4.0 as a key enabler in meeting the objective. Still cable operators need to walk before they run at 10Gbps symmetrical. In the near-term, DOCSIS 4.0 enables boosting spectrum maximum capacity up to 1.8 GHz, although notable caveats include the requirement to replace existing taps, accepting some higher RF loss on today’s coax, and accepting existing amps can deliver support but with Total Composite Power (TCP)/output compromises. In addition, I anticipate chipset suppliers will follow through on their indications and ability to support 1.8 GHz end points as part of Extended Spectrum DOCSIS (ESD) regime, enabling incremental spectrum increases up to 3GHz or higher and bandwidth rates of 25Gbps and faster.

ATX’s GigaXtend Cable Poised to Enable Operator Pivot to DOCSIS 4.0 and 3GHz+ Future

ATX positions its GigaXtend portfolio as the centerpiece of the company’s 2050 Project corporate vision. Overall I anticipate the combination of the 2050 Project’s compelling vision and the GigaXtend portfolio to provide the technological foundation for cable operators to achieve their highest priority DOCSIS 4.0, ESD, and 1 Gbps+ bandwidth technical and business objectives.

I believe ATX’s GigaXtend portfolio affords cable operators the opportunity to revitalize their outside plants with technology purpose-built to enable and accelerate emerging spectrum increases of 1.8GHz and beyond. By targeting the most pressing cable operator demands and landing the Cisco agreement, ATX can plausibly tout its new family of amplifiers is built on a trusted technology pedigree with the reputation for performance and reliability needed to fulfill the demands of DOCSIS 4.0 and ultimately the 2050 vision of fiber-based 50Gbps services.

Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.

Other insights from Futurum Research:

FirstNet puts AT&T at the Forefront of Operator Relief Measures Aimed at Overcoming the COVID-19 Crisis

2020 Outlook: Operators Must Implement Hardware-to-Software (HW2SW) Transformation or Risk 5G Implosion

HPE 5G Core Stack: New Opening and Opportunity Targeting the Operator 5G Core

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