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Small Quebec operator boosts bandwidth, broadband speeds

A small Quebec City cable operator is rolling out much higher broadband speeds and significantly more HD and 4K channels to its subscribers after implementing a bandwidth reclamation solution from Adara Technologies that supports its migration to IP video.

The French Canadian cableco, Coopérative de Câblodistribution de L'Arrière Pays (CCAP), says it has boosted its top broadband speeds to 400 Mbit/s downstream and 40 Mbit/s upstream in areas where it's upgraded its HFC architecture to DOCSIS 3.1. It plans to raise the top downstream speed to 1 Gbit/s as soon as possible to create a buzz for the data service.

"We're aiming as high as we can," said CCAP General Manager Stéphane Arseneau, pointing to the marketing value of providing 1-Gig service in areas where rival Bell Canada is already offering speeds as high as 1.5 Gbit/s. "It's not that the customers need it [1-Gig] or want it."

At the same time, CCAP has added nearly 50 HD and UHD channels on the upgraded portion of its plant, increasing its total HD/4K lineup to 190 channels. Although the operator is losing video subscribers like most North American pay-TV providers these days, it hasn't lost them at the same accelerated rate as most others and still views video as a critical service offering.

CCAP, which covers a footprint of nearly 22,000 homes in five sparsely populated northern Quebec communities, has about 15,000 video subscribers and 19,000 broadband customers. So far, it has upgraded lines serving 1,500 of those homes, with plans to bring the rest of its network up to speed by mid-2022.

"It should take a year and a half to cover the whole thing," Arseneau said. Although the work has been "challenging" because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he noted, the operator remains committed to completing the upgrade on schedule.

In carrying out these upgrades, CCAP has relied on new bandwidth reclamation technology from Adara, a Toronto-based cable vendor that specializes in helping operators use their existing RF spectrum more efficiently. The reclamation solution is the latest gambit from Adara, which previously developed switched digital video (SDV), later renamed switched IP video (SIPV), technology to clear room for more video channels. Those techniques work by "switching" multicast programs into network service groups only when those programs are actually requested by viewers, rather than broadcasting all channels to all set-top boxes all the time. But they have never caught hold with most operators.

Unlike SDV or SIPV, Adara says, its bandwidth reclamation method focuses on expanding broadband services, not video services. But, the company arguees, it can still do what SDV does and more, clearing space for both more video channels and higher broadband speeds.

The Adara solution also leverages "codec-awareness," a feature that distinguishes between MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 codecs on customer set-top boxes. This enables operators to take advantage of the bandwidth efficiencies of MPEG-4 in homes with the newer boxes without having to replace the legacy MPEG-2 set-tops in other homes.

Joseph Nucara, CEO and co-founder of Adara, said the bandwidth reclamation solution took about four months to implement on CCAP's HFC plant. Noting that "IP video requires 35% more bandwidth to do video over DOCSIS," he said CCAP could not have made the migration from QAM-based video to IP video without the solution.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading


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