In a blog post published earlier this week, details were provided on why CommScope unexpectedly decided to acquire the cable assets of Casa Systems for $45.1 million. The primary reasons discussed included strengthening CommScope’s cable presence and achieving the necessary scale for the transition to virtualized Cable Modem Termination Systems (vCMTS).

Another significant factor in CommScope’s decision to pursue this acquisition is the access Casa’s already-deployed Axyom vBNG (Virtual Broadband Network Gateway) platform to complement CommScope’s PON OLT and ONT platforms and provide operators with a more comprehensive fiber portfolio. The Axyom vBNG has already been deployed with Mexico’s Izzi as well as with other tier 1 operators that have not yet been announced publicly.

Similar to the vCMTS market, the vBNG market is still in its early stages of development, though vBNG deployments are expected to increase significantly in 2025 and beyond as operators continue to move away from BNG functions integrated directly on centralized, hardware-based edge routers, and look to separate control and user plane functions.

vBNGs serve as the access point for broadband subscribers, managing the connection between their modem and the service provider’s broadband network. vBNGs authenticate and manage those subscriber sessions, aggregate the sessions, and then route them to the service provider’s network. Additionally, vBNGs offer traffic shaping functions to deliver Quality-of-Service (QoS) features for specific subscribers, such as traffic prioritization and rate limiting.

As Fiber to the Home (FTTH) deployments and subscriber sessions continue to increase, operators will need to scale and distribute their BNGs to enhance network resilience and simplify IP address management and subscriber authentication at the edge rather than backhauling all of that traffic to a centralized BNG. This is as much the case for larger, tier 1 operators as it is for smaller operators who don’t necessarily need a large, centralized BNG. vBNGs running on COTS servers provide all operators with the flexibility to scale their throughout and simultaneous session management with their subscriber base.

Operators such as AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, Vodafone, and Comcast are all active in the standardization and development of vBNGs and there is a growing population of smaller ISPs trialing vBNGs from a group of vendors that include Casa Systems, Ciena, NetElastic, Six Wind, 5X9 Networks, UfiSpace, DriveNets, rtBrick, and Nokia.

Certainly, with the ongoing global subsidization efforts to expand fiber access, now is the right time for operators to begin rethinking how they architect their subscriber management functions. Even beyond fiber, fixed wireless access (FWA) providers are also looking at vBNGs that can provide the Access Gateway Function (AGF) of a 5G core. The AGF provides nearly all the same functionality of a vBNG, but is also focused on facilitating the interworking of wireline devices with the 5G core. For any mobile operator delivering FWA services, the AGF can play a critical role in the management and authentication of FWA CPE and subscriber sessions.


In a surprise move last week, CommScope emerged as the winning bidder for Casa Systems’ cable assets, edging out Vecima Networks and Harmonic. The winning bid of $45.1M represented a significant premium over Vecima’s initial stalking horse bid of $20M.

The move is interesting because CommScope is known to be exploring a sale of its ANS (Access Network Solutions) Division in an effort to reduce a debt load pushing $9B. CommScope announced its intent to acquire ARRIS in 2018 and completed the acquisition in early 2019 for $7.4 B. From 2018 to 2019, ARRIS’ CCAP revenue plummeted from $739M in 2018 to $442M in 2019, as operators completed their DOCSIS 3.1 upgrades and, more critically, Comcast capped its CCAP purchases in favor of transitioning to Virtual CMTS and Remote PHY. CommScope’s CCAP revenue improved slightly in 2020 and 2021 but has since declined further, reaching $293M in 2023.

Meanwhile, Casa, which from 2014-2018 generated cumulative revenue of just under $1.3B from its C40G and C100G CMTS and CCAP platforms and secured a significant footprint with Charter, Claro, Rogers, and other tier 1 operators, was unable to rebound from the 1-2 punch of a softer market for DOCSIS licenses and Charter’s announcement in March 2023 that Casa would be excluded from its massive network upgrade project. Additionally, Casa was unable to find enough traction for its vCMTS and DAA products to offset declining license revenue for its integrated CCAP platforms, although the company does have some DAA traction with Rogers Communications, Vodafone, Liberty Global, and Claro Colombia.

So, with both vendors seeing declining revenues for their CCAP platforms and an industry that is clearly moving away from integrated CCAP platforms toward vCMTS and Remote PHY, where both vendors have lagged behind their primary competitors, Harmonic and Vecima Networks, why would CommScope make this deal? And, beyond price, why would Vecima walk away from a deal that could have accelerated the market readiness of its own vCMTS platform?

Let’s consider a few different rationales:

  1. CommScope needs to amass and scale vCMTS deployments: We have emphasized this many times, but the industry is still in the early stages of transitioning to vCMTS platforms. However, the addressable market of operators, and the larger DOCSIS and HFC market, are declining as more operators gradually transition to fiber. Therefore, we don’t expect the combined vCMTS and Remote PHY Device (RPD) market to ever reach to revenue levels seen in 2018 and prior for integrated CCAP platforms. With operators pursuing various strategies and combinations of DOCSIS and PON in their access networks, it is imperative for a company like CommScope to roll up as many potential vCMTS opportunities as possible—particularly among those operators committed to a strategy of continuing to rely on DOCSIS and HFC for the bulk of their residential connections. And Casa does count Rogers Communications and Claro Colombia as key vCMTS customers. Back in October 2023, CommScope did announce its first customer win for its vCore platform. However, there has been no follow-up announcement regarding a formal contract or additional wins since then, which leads us to our second reason.
  2. CommScope’s vCore product is perhaps not as far along as it needs to be: Development on CommScope’s vCore vCMTS platform has been on-again, off-again over the last few years. Initially, virtualization of MAC functions was run on the E6000 chassis, ostensibly to support RPD rollouts by Cox Communications, among others. The idea was then to move these capabilities onto COTS servers to scale the CMTS VNFs (Virtual Network Functions) horizontally as new DAA service groups were launched. However, porting existing software, designed to function alongside the dedicated hardware of an integrated CCAP platform, onto servers is a challenging task. There was word throughout this process that CommScope was having a difficult time completing this development. Ongoing personnel and strategy changes certainly didn’t help matters, either.

So, perhaps the addition of Casa’s Axyom vCMTS and current customer base gives CommScope not only the opportunity to scale existing Tier 1 DAA customers but also to potentially rely on the Axyom as its primary vCMTS platform in the short term while it continues to improve the performance of its vCore platform. We speculated in a previous blog that this was the motivation behind Vecima’s interest in Casa, with Vecima announcing the availability of its own Entra vCMTS in the fourth quarter of this year. Ultimately, we expect elements of the Axyom and vCore platforms to be integrated into a single software stack to avoid parallel development efforts that could sidetrack operator deployments.

  1. Casa brings additional short-term revenue opportunities that improve the ANS valuation: Despite the clear trend towards virtualization at the edge, there will also be a DOCSIS 3.1+ software upgrade cycle on existing CCAP platforms that could help to prolong those products’ lifespans and provide a short-term boost to revenue. We assume that the software upgrades necessary to support the additional OFDM channels will be quite a bit less than purchasing full licenses for the additional spectrum. Nevertheless, there will be enough new spectrum and licenses purchased on existing CCAP platforms to support mid- and high-split efforts, as well as DOCSIS 3.1+. This stabilization of short-term revenue, combined with the continuing traction Casa was getting with its vBNG product for FTTH deployments, could be enough to improve the valuation of the ANS Division and make a sale with more favorable terms possible.

Ultimately, CommScope’s decision to spend $45.1M on Casa’s cable assets and Vecima’s decision to walk away almost certainly comes down to how big each company estimates the vCMTS market will grow to and how much of that market can each vendor capture. Our current forecast, published in January, pegs the vCMTS market to grow steadily to $367M worldwide by 2028. That is a meaningful market on an annual basis. For CommScope, which experienced years of $1B+ revenues for its CMTS and CCAP platforms, potentially growing a product to that size is well within their comfort level. For Vecima, scaling to that size would have been very possible, but would also involve a significant amount of risk and potential potholes along the way. Vecima is currently scaling its RPD and R-OLT products to meet increasing Tier-1 demand. Absorbing Casa’s products, customer base, and employees could have siphoned away the momentum the company has already built.

Related blog: CommScope Also has Bigger PON Ambitions with Casa


In a blog last year, we detailed how the 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) services provided by T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T presented the biggest threat to cable’s dominance of the US fixed broadband market. At the time of that blog (August 2023), T-Mobile had secured 3.2 million FWA subscribers, while Verizon had announced an FWA subscriber base of 2.26 million. At the time, T-Mobile mentioned that around 51% of its subscribers were previously cable customers. While Verizon doesn’t disclose the makeup of its subscriber base, it is safe to assume that they were converting a similar percentage of cable subscribers.

Fast forward to the first quarter of 2024. Not only has the siphoning off of cable broadband subscribers continued, with T-Mobile surpassing 5 million FWA subscribers, but now the operator is expanding its presence in the fixed broadband market by acquiring 50% of Lumos for $950M through a joint venture with EQT. With an additional investment of $500M expected in the 2027/2028 time frame, the Lumos network will be expanded from its current passings total of 320K to 3.5M by the end of 2028.

Why Lumos? Why Now?

T-Mobile has undoubtedly demonstrated not only its potential but also its ability to execute in the area of adding broadband subscribers with an attractively-priced bundle of mobile and fixed services. Much of T-Mobile’s success can be attributed to timing, inflationary pressure on household budgets pushed many cable and DSL subscribers to consider reducing their spending on broadband and other communications services. In fact, in its 2022 “State of Fixed Wireless Access” report, T-Mobile reported that 58% of its FWA subscribers switched specifically because of the lower price. With its FWA subscriber base skewing heavily suburban and rural, T-Mobile also became the only realistic non-cable option for many customers.

But T-Mobile always viewed FWA as opportunistic. Executives clarified recently that “our fixed wireless strategy has always been about selling excess capacity, where we predict normal cell phone usage won’t suck up that 5G capacity.” The company has always known that spectrum limitations and the lure of much higher profit margins per GB of data for mobility customers put a hard ceiling on just how many FWA subscribers the company could expect to support. Additional outlays of mid-band spectrum could potentially resolve any congestion issues in markets with high numbers of FWA subscribers and potential point-to-multipoint mmWave services wouldn’t impact the core 5G sub-6Ghz spectrum.

Ultimately, though, if T-Mobile wanted to build on its success in Fixed Wireless without running the risk of exhausting its valuable spectrum, it was going to have to either build, buy, or partner with fiber network operators to expand the reach of its broadband service footprint. At first, T-Mobile Fiber announced partnerships with a number of wholesale open access fiber network operators, including Tillman FiberCo, SiFi Networks, and Intrepid Networks. These partnerships would allow T-Mobile to scale its nascent fiber offerings as an ISP without having to own or operate the underlying infrastructure. However, we have heard that T-Mobile has had a difficult time reaching agreements on cost and revenue share with all of these partners, delaying rollouts in strategic markets.

Back in August, Lumos secured $1.1B in funding from EQT, allowing Lumos to refinance its debt and position itself to expand its fiber footprint across North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. In each of those States, Lumos was securing multiple American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Capital Project Fund grants to subsidize the cost of building out fiber networks in a growing number of communities. The company was also well-positioned to secure a meaningful portion of the nearly $3.6B in aggregate BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access, and Development) across those three states.

Partially because of the difficulties in coming to service agreements with its infrastructure partners, but also due to Lumos’ size, geographic focus, exposure to subsidized fiber buildouts, as well as its recent debt refinancing deal with EQT, T-Mobile likely viewed a joint venture with EQT to acquire Lumos as the least risky option to expand its fixed broadband presence in markets where it will continue to compete head-on with both Comcast and Charter, the two operators that have arguably seen the most net broadband subscriber losses to Fixed Wireless.

Under the terms of the deal, Lumos will transition to a wholesale model with T-Mobile as the anchor ISP. This is exactly the type of arrangement T-Mobile has established with some of its other infrastructure partners. However, with its partial ownership of Lumos, T-Mobile can presumably generate better returns and healthier margins from its broadband service offerings. The joint venture also is consistent with T-Mobile’s goal of expanding its market presence and footprint without expending a significant amount of capital. In fact, if you take the $1.4B that T-Mobile will ultimately invest in Lumos as it increases its homes passed from 320K to 3.5M by the end of 2028, T-Mobile’s cost per home passed ends up being somewhat less than $500.

With the Lumos acquisition, T-Mobile Fiber will become available across 11 different States and over 75 unique markets.

It is unlikely that T-Mobile will stop there. The post-pandemic subsidization of fiber networks and providers combined with upcoming BEAD disbursements will result in a significant expansion of fiber across the nation and another increase in the total number of fiber providers, be they wholesale providers, municipalities, electric co-ops, and more traditional ISPs. Not all of these providers will be able to achieve the scale they need to attain a sustainable business in the long term.

Additionally, among the largest operators in the US, it can be argued that some consolidation is necessary since broadband penetration rates are reaching saturation levels and additional growth can only come incrementally.

Therefore, the likelihood of T-Mobile investing in or acquiring select fiber providers, or even acquiring a tier 1 cable operator becomes even greater, particularly if T-Mobile can continue its fixed wireless and fiber subscriber growth.

The push and pull of broadband and wireless subscribers aren’t expected to slow down anytime soon. Certainly, with inflation continuing to put pressure on household budgets, consumers are going to be focused on keeping their communications costs low and looking for value wherever they can find it. That means we are returning to an environment where subscribers take advantage of introductory pricing on services only to switch providers to extend that introductory pricing once the initial offer expires. That shifting and its expected downward pressure on residential ARPU will likely be countered by increasing ARPUs at some providers as they move existing DSL customers to fiber or, in the case of cable operators, move customers to multi-gigabit tiers.

The US broadband market is definitely in for a wild ride over the next few years as the competitive landscape changes across many markets. The net result is certain to be shifts in market share and ebbs and flows in net subscriber additions depending on consumer sentiment. One thing that will remain constant is that value and reliability will remain key components of any subscription decision. The providers that deliver on that consistently will ultimately be the winners.


Last August, we published a blog post providing insights into the proliferation of Fiber to the Room (FTTR) deployments across China and select countries. We highlighted how this new service offering was driving a new round of ONT purchases—particularly in China—where new fiber subscriber additions had begun to moderate a bit from their peak. By mid-2023, over 6 million FTTR ONT units had been purchased, the vast majority coming from China Unicom, which was the first of the three major fixed broadband providers in China to deploy the service. For China Unicom, traditionally trailing behind China Telecom and China Mobile in the FTTH market, FTTR was seen as a way to gain a competitive advantage over its rivals and to lock in subscribers to multi-year contracts with a service that solved some of the pesky channel interference issues seen with Wi-Fi in densely-populated MDUs.

With our most recent visit to China, we are now able to provide updated shipment figures for FTTR ONTs, as well as to provide some more detail on the types of ONTs being deployed, as along with some interesting revenue-generating applications used to upsell subscribers on the FTTR service.

First, we now know that a total of just over 23 million FTTR ONTs were shipped to Chinese operators in 2023. Of these 23 million plus ONTs, there was nearly a 1:1 relationship between master ONT units and the subtended units. The ratio actually comes out to around 1:1.01 between master and subtended units. This means that the average deployment includes a single master unit and a single subtended unit, which makes sense, given the generally smaller dwellings in China.

In terms of PON technologies used, 90% of the master units are XG-PON, while nearly 100% of the subtended units are GPON-based. The first generation of ONTs deployed by China Unicom was based on Wi-Fi 6. However, both China Unicom and China Telecom are rapidly switching over to Wi-Fi 7 units with 2×2 MIMO capabilities. These units do not incorporate the full tri-band capabilities of Wi-Fi 7 because the 6GHz band has not been approved for use in China. Still, the software and modulation improvements of Wi-Fi 7 do provide a performance improvement over the Wi-Fi 6 units. Additionally, these dual-band Wi-Fi 7 units cost significantly less than full-featured, tri-band units.

Finally, we have also heard about FTTR ONTs that include 2TB hard drives for local storage of photos and videos, which can be automatically backed up to the cloud—a service China Telecom is calling as Cloud NAS. It remains to be seen what percentage of FTTR ONTs will include hard drives. Suffice it to say that China Telecom is at least thinking about additional services it can deliver to both generate more revenue per subscriber and differentiate its FTTR offering in a highly competitive market.

Surge Expected in 2024

Though 2023’s numbers look impressive, they won’t hold a candle to what we are now expecting this year. With China Unicom now humming along and adding hundreds of thousands of new FTTR subscribers, China Telecom is set to mount a furious comeback. China’s second-largest broadband provider closed 2023 with a tender requesting the purchase of 15 million FTTR ONTs in 2024. However, we believe that CTC will easily exceed that number, as we have heard that the operator is taking delivery of over 6 million units in the first quarter alone.

China Telecom was caught flat-footed by its rival, China Unicom, and is now aggressively trying to catch up before Unicom siphons away additional customers with offers of free FTTR installations, even if customers aren’t complaining about their in-home network performance. Again, the goal of FTTR isn’t necessarily to solve Wi-Fi issues, it is intended to accomplish four goals:

  • Increasing ARPU (Average Revenue Per User)
  • Reducing subscriber churn
  • Reducing energy consumption in the home and throughout the network
  • Reducing service and support costs by improving the quality of service

We estimate that the three operators closed in 2023 with approximately 35 million individual FTTR subscribers, and we expect that number to increase to anywhere from 48 to 53 million in 2024, finally reaching over 80 million by 2026. Admittedly, those are conservative estimates, which balance the actual expressed need for FTTR services by subscribers vs. upgrade offers that simply can’t be passed up.


It’s no secret that cable operators are facing growing competitive threats from both fiber ISPs and fixed wireless providers in markets where they previously only faced DSL competition. Certainly, these cable operators have many options at their disposal for evolving their existing HFC plant to increase bandwidth and stay ahead of competitors from both a billboard speed perspective as well as a network reliability perspective.

It’s also no secret that cable operators are building out greenfield networks using fiber and are doing so in edge-out projects using remote OLT platforms, which allow them to address new serving areas from either existing or new node locations. Charter Communications is a prime example of an operator expanding its fiber footprint using remote OLTs to support fiber delivery in rural and underserved markets. These and other deployments globally have resulted in a steadily growing market for remote OLT platforms, which are expected to see revenue growth from $112 M worldwide in 2023 to $164 M in 2024.Additionally, cable operators in North America are deploying more traditional OLT platforms in either their headends or hub sites to deliver either 10 Gbps EPON using DPoE (DOCSIS Provisioning over EPON) or XGS-PON. We estimate that North American cable operators have purchased around 30-35 K OLT ports on an annual basis to support their own FTTH buildouts. Those numbers are relatively small when compared with the deployments of telcos, utilities, and municipalities. However, they are growing as cable operators strike a balance between their current HFC upgrade strategies and out-of-market expansions using fiber.

Competition Drives 25GS-PON Upgrades

In a growing number of conversations we have had with North American cable operators—both large and small—the current and potential competitive threats they are seeing from fiber providers taking advantage of Federal and State Government subsidization to overbuild their own HFC and fiber networks are only going to accelerate. In these markets where cable operators once enjoyed market dominance, they now face encroaching competition from multiple fiber providers using GPON or XGS-PON to offer similar speeds and service tiers.

A growing group of these cable operators are either planning to upgrade or are currently upgrading the fiber portion of their networks to 25GS-PON so that they can deliver true 10 Gbps services to their business and, eventually, residential customers. In essence, their strategy is to use 25GS-PON as a deterrent for additional market entrants to encroach on their serving areas. The thinking is that, with the ability to offer symmetric 10 Gbps services across their fiber footprint, competitors will have less incentive to overbuild because of the speed disadvantage they would have not only initially, but presumably for multiple years. If subscriber acquisition opportunities are limited, thereby extending the time to revenue, then operators have less financial incentive to overbuild.

Service Electric Cablevision in Pennsylvania recently announced that it would be passing 200K new and existing homes with XGS-PON and 25GS-PON. We are expecting similar announcements from additional cable operators in North America throughout the year, as they look to balance their fiber expansion projects while also upgrading their existing DOCSIS footprint.

In many markets, cable operators have been the dominant video providers, either via their traditional QAM networks or via IP video. Holding video franchises for decades has often discouraged new market entrants. However, that advantage has been eroded over time, as subscribers have moved to streaming services or reduced their spending by taking smaller packages of local channels. With broadband now the anchor service for all cable operators, protecting their markets through the deployment of 25GS-PON, combined with more flexibility in the service tiers they offer their customers can provide similar market advantages they used to enjoy with broadcast video.

The market advantages extend to business customers, as well. Historically, cable operators have only been able to offer business-class DOCSIS services to these customers, with an upcharge for higher SLAs, static IP addresses, and other features. Cable operators have done extremely well over the last decade in stealing away small- and medium-business customers from telcos who had more inflexible pricing plans or relied on T1 or business-class DSL lines. But recently, telcos and other fiber ISPs have pushed hard to get these business customers back by pitching the higher reliability and technological advantage of fiber. Thus, the deployment of fiber and 25GS-PON gives cable operators a clear advantage as they can offer their business-class customers symmetric 10 Gbps services.

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