Shaw banks on DAA to converge services and infrastructure

Shaw Cablesystem started its DAA journey last year and expects to begin trials soon. (Pixabay)

ATLANTA—Shaw Cablesystems' Jamie Brown, director, next generation access network technology, says his company is looking at distributed access architecture (DAA) from two perspectives: automation and the impact it has on Shaw's facilities.

Speaking at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo DAA preconference session, Brown said there was a tremendous amount of work involved to scale the network through all of the RF connections at hub sites.

"We want to be able to transition with DAA to an all-IP infrastructure that we can then orchestrate and activate all of the services," he said. "So that's going to have a tremendous impact of, how do we then revolutionize our workforce and skill set so that they (employees) can be much better experts at scaling?"

"The second one is the facility's impact. We do a lot of smaller hub sites with 1,000 homes passed. The issue here is we can continue on the status quo, but that will quickly outstretch our ability to continue to scale those hub sites with power, cooling and rack space. So we have to be moving into a space where we can have a much more targeted approach from a spending perspective."

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Brown said that DAA was an enabler for Shaw by helping it focus its capex on a couple of key sites while also allowing it to scale its services. Shaw started down the DAA pathway about a year ago, according to Brown.

"DAA overall is a simplified architecture but it's quite complex from a backbone perspective," he said. "We're cementing those efforts right now, getting us to be ready because we know that we can support a video service, a data service, all our services to serve customers. Trials will probably be next month."

"We can then start to work through how do we then operationalize this so we can get it to scale? The focus on what we're trying to do here is how do we come out of the gate with our operations team's focuses in mind and the solutions of it all. We're then going to be moving into what we're calling a try-touch trial."

Over the next six months, Shaw will work with a group of technicians, which will include service techs and field techs, to get them involved with how the services will work.

"We'll start to scale these nodes with the technicians helping us and then get it to a wider group of techs on the development team and then continue to get the right solution until we get something that the groups feel that we're ready to go to mass market scale," Brown said. "We can start the process of distributing that information out to a wider group of technicians and having them be able to support that more on our target area. The idea here is we're basically doing a cap and grow and doing DAA nodes."

The next steps involve moving to virtualization to increase the flexibility of the services and features, and then do Full Duplex DOCSIS.

"We're under a tremendous about of competitive pressure from a fiber optics provider," Brown said. "We need to make sure we have a foundation in place to support the emerging services."

Shaw will also move some of its CMTSs back into select hub sites ahead of converging its services and moving its C-RAN to the same infrastructure as the CMTSs.

"DAA is a very important job right now," Brown said. "It's revolutionizing our workforce and making sure we're able to move into the future as well. It's a foundational step for everything we're going to be doing for the next five years. So I'm certainly excited for the future and look forward to it."