June 27, 2019 by Doug Blue

How Much Does it Cost to Operate Hybrid Remote PHY/PON Cable Networks?


In my last blog, I talked about a new Calix white paper that provides a detailed analysis of a new, unorthodox architectural approach to HFC evolution. While it may be unorthodox, it maybe also be the best option for cable operators looking to provide bandwidth-hungry subscribers with actual FTTH service.

Many cable MSOs have historically considered an either/or approach to HFC evolution - a complete fiber-to-the-home build-out on the one hand, versus an upgrade of their existing HFC network on the other. But, this new “hybrid” approach converts existing optical nodes to Remote PHY devices while at the same time pushes fiber deeper into the nodes serving area for selective PON/FTTH connectivity.

The real power of the hybrid solution is that it gives operators the ability to offload their high-bandwidth traffic (typically generated by businesses and heavy residential users – the Elite 10 percent I like to call them) to the FTTH PON network. This eliminates the need for a node +0 deployment, future incremental HFC upgrades, and the reliance on future technologies, such as Full Duplex or Expanded Spectrum DOCSIS®.

Are there OPEX savings?

But how much it will cost to operate and maintain the hybrid Remote PHY/PON network over the long term? In the study, we projected the full range of OPEX and licensing costs over a five-year period beginning with the deployment of the new hybrid network. These costs include:

  • Drop replacements
  • Hardline cable replacements
  • OSP plant power
  • Training
  • Equipment support contracts
  • Repair/install technicians
  • Maintenance technicians

For each of these categories, we compared the OPEX for the hybrid network to that of the fiber-deep Node+0 and FTTH network architectures. The OPEX analysis for the either/or scenarios were derived from a related study we conducted in 2018. Not surprisingly, the FTTH architecture generated OPEX savings of 30 to 60 percent compared to the Node+0 option. While a hybrid approach requires an operator to maintain two different networks, the operational benefits of a FTTH network, coupled with the deployment of fewer RPD’s, is not appreciably more costly to operate than a node + 0 RPD network.  

The bottom line? Based on our analysis, it doesn’t appear that operating a hybrid network significantly impacts operational costs, but when combined with the substantial CAPEX savings, the evolutionary path to a hybrid network merits serious consideration by cable operators.

Stay tuned for my next blog, which will take a deeper dive into the CAPEX savings the study discovered.

But, if you can’t wait for the next installment, download the full results of the OPEX and CAPEX analysis of the hybrid solution versus the other options today.