GAP can help MSOs keep up with the changing landscape necessitating the many different node SKUs, leading to high deployment, inventory, development, and maintenance costs. This is because today's hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) nodes, amplifiers, and other outside plant gear are usually purpose-built to a pre-defined set of functions and cannot be easily changed after installation. Therefore, ...operators would have to swap out an entire HFC node in order to make the previously described upgrades, which may be cost and time prohibitive. Further exacerbating management complexity, operators are driving fiber deeper in the network, resulting in up to a ten-fold increase in the number of HFC nodes. What is needed is a set of standards that helps increase the agility and manageability of HFC nodes. This paper discusses how Intel, Charter, and others in the industry are pioneering a new concept to address these industry challenges with the Generic Access Platform (GAP) project. The GAP platform eases the migration to multi-access edge computing (MEC), and HFC node connectivity to CBRS or other 5G networks, two key advancements in the networking and communications industries.
With network requirements and delivery models constantly evolving, multiple-system operators (MSOs) need to deploy a mix of ever-changing access technology. For example, a DOCSIS node may, in the future, require a remote-PHY and passive optical network (PON) to serve a given neighborhood. In the coming years, another location might implement full-duplex (FDX) DOCSIS together with 5G to better serve an enterprise. GAP specifies a standards-based, modular enclosure with well-defined slots that can house any module conforming to GAP's physical, thermal, mechanical, and electrical specifications. Thus, GAP-compliant modules are able to coexist within a GAP-compliant enclosure. Akin to the Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) specification, GAP provides enough information to allow vendors (e.g., OEMs) to independently develop interoperable modules. Today, an OEM is typically responsible for the entire HFC node, including all internal electronic components as well as the enclosure (usually cast aluminum). A goal of GAP is to eliminate the need for each OEM to develop its own housings; and instead, devote these engineering resources to developing service-generating modules.