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Houston: We Have a Problem – and a Solution

| July 1, 2015 |

Network capacity, headend space and the all-IP transition

The challenges facing the cable industry are interestingly similar to those encountered by the imperiled Apollo 13 mission in 1970. Like astronaut Jim Lovell, who famously said, “Houston we have a problem,” today’s cable operators have to contend with limited capacity, space constraints and the need to reengineer on the fly. For MSOs, the issues are specifically data bandwidth, headend and hub burden, and the transition to All-IP.

Recovering from the explosion

The initial problem on Apollo 13 was the explosion of an oxygen tank in the Service Module. The explosion forced them to move into the Lunar Module, which served as a “life raft” for most of the return to earth. The Apollo crew faced a variety of challenges, starting with a dire threat: how to rebuild their air filter to increase the percentage of oxygen in the air.

As a cable operator, you are facing critical limits. The “explosion” of IP video has left the industry short of breath. Analog reclamation and, in some cases, bandwidth expansion have helped, but demand continues to drastically outpace supply.

Today, with help from Gainspeed, you can combine existing hybrid fiber coax (HFC) assets with new technologies, such as software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV), to immensely and cost effectively increase network capacity. This solution also enables superior signal performance, which is critical for successful DOCSIS 3.1.

Apollo 13 Launch

Contending with tight quarters

Another challenge for Apollo 13 was physical constraints. The Lunar Module was designed to carry two astronauts for a day and a half, not three astronauts for four days. But Lovell and team found a way to manage.

You are also running short of room. This is no secret. Reclaiming headend and hub space was one of the main motivations for the Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) initiative. But CCAP only goes so far. Gainspeed’s Virtual CCAP solution, on the other hand, eliminates all cable-specific devices from the headend and gives you a 10x space and power advantage. It not only stops hub growth; it enables hub consolidation.

New flight plan

Maybe the biggest challenge for Apollo 13 was its sudden change in mission. They had trained for a lunar landing, but had to recalibrate their mission objective to simple survival. Some solutions, like fixing the air filter or re-powering up the Command Module or separating it from the Lunar Module without an operative control system – were engineered on the fly.

The cable industry’s flight plan has also shifted. At one time, serving the customer simply meant delivering QAM-based video over a HFC access plant. But the exponentially escalating demand for IP-video has changed the game. The billion-dollar question: How do you migrate to all-IP, and eventually fiber-to-the-home, while continuing to leverage your HFC assets?

The Gainspeed answer is to push IP all the way to node – to the neighborhood. Gainspeed’s Ethernet nodes handle all the cable-specific functions, including DOCSIS processing and RF modulation. Virtualization then allows you to do things never before possible: incrementally migrate capacity from traditional video to IP services at the touch of the button, with no time-consuming and costly upgrades.

We’ve got a solution

Whether brought on by Netflix or crowded hubs or some other factor, chances are you’ve had your own “Houston-we-have-a-problem” moment. Under intense pressure, but with grace and ingenuity, Apollo 13 addressed their challenges with capacity, space and shifting objectives. With Gainspeed’s Virtual CCAP solution, you can too.

The Gainspeed Team

P.S. An interesting aside: What Jack Swigert and then Jim Lovell – (as opposed to Tom Hanks) – actually said, however, was “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” Check out this link for more information on the Apollo 13 challenge, and go here for more information on how Gainspeed’s innovative Virtual CCAP solution can help you add network capacity, address headend space challenges and make the all-IP transition.

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