Comcast Business tees-up vCPE for launch in late 2020

Comcast Business is working its way towards the launch of virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE) in the third or fourth quarter of this year.

When Comcast Business launched its software-defined networking (SDN) ActiveCore a few years ago, it jumped right in to offering universal customer premise equipment (uCPE). In an interview with FierceTelecom, Comcast Business's Jeff Lewis, vice president for software-defined networking, said vCPE has been on the cable operator's roadmap for some time.

While Lewis didn't mention the coronavirus pandemic as a driver for deploying vCPE, the move to work-from-home scenarios could give vCPE a nudge this year. Prior to COVID-19, vCPE deployments lagged in terms of functionality and time to market due to interoperability challenges and complexity.

Initially, vCPE was seen as a key element for network function virtualization (NFV), but with NFV undergoing numerous iterations vCPE seemed to be more the domain of large service providers such as AT&T and Orange.

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Comcast Business and Colt Technology Services, both of which have deployed uCPE, are exploring SD-WAN services for home-bound remote workers, which could include vCPE. Up until recently, Lewis said there hadn't been a lot of demand for vCPE, but that demand has been creeping up.

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Along the same lines, CenturyLink is also looking at offering vCPE as part of its managed services portfolio for the new enterprise WFH model, according to CenturyLink's Adam Saenger, vice president of adaptive networking. Saenger didn't give a timeframe for when CenturyLink might launch vCPE, but both CenturyLink and Comcast Business use Versa Networks for their SD-WAN services.

"A lot of a lot of times it takes events like this (COVID-19) to spark broader adoptions of newer concepts," Saenger said. "As we talked to the enterprises that are going through this, many of them had to had to move into a work-from-home environment literally overnight.

"They're just now looking for what is the long standing way for them to not have to manage CPE? They want a scalable and long term solution knowing that enterprise operating models are going to change and that they have changed."