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Charter’s Bob Hunt Talks with Cisco on their New Network

Yesterday we announced that Charter Communications, a leading broadband communications and entertainment provider and the 4th largest cable company in the United States selected the Cisco CRS-3 and ASR 9000 as part of a major network upgrade. This of course brings up the question our readers often ask – why? What is driving these investments? While we have our perspective (which we share regularly on the SP360 blog and other forums), it’s even better when we get the view directly from the customer.  To that end, we had the opportunity to  interview Bob Hunt, Charter’s VP of Network Engineering on Charter’s perspective on the network upgrade, the drivers, and the growth in DOCSIS 3.0 usage and the network efficiencies he’s forecasting.

Bob Hunt, Charter CommunicationVideo. “Video obviously is our traditional business, but it’s changed over the years. A lot of our growth is in high definition channels and on demand — so the additional capacity we’re adding gives us plenty of room to continue to grow these areas. We’re adding a significant amount of HD content, often times as many as 25 channels at once and adding strategic channels such as NFL and RedZone, both in HD. We’re also expanding our on demand offering, for example — we’ve recently added ExerciseTV On Demand, with free fitness and lifestyle programming for our digital customers. I suppose it’s ironic that television, which is thought of as a ‘couch potato’ activity now helps viewers work out more conveniently. The upgraded core network will also enable us to run the network more efficiently and at lower costs by reducing the number of headends required.”

DOCSIS 3.0. “In our most recent quarterly report [Q2 FY2011] we noted that 85% of our homes passed can now get DOCSIS 3.0 service, and nearly 95% of our customers have a broadband plan of 12Mbps or higher. The investment we’ve made in the network will help ensure that customers get a premium Internet experience, even as download speeds get faster.”

Mobile. “Mobile backhaul is a terrific opportunity for Charter. Our network footprint is ideal to pick up mobile traffic from the towers, especially since so much is data driven by Smartphone use, and muxing T’s is not cost effective. With the deployments of 4G accelerating we see this as an ideal way for Charter to leverage our existing network infrastructure to bring in new revenue. In fact, we’re already passing the towers in many cases for our other services, and we’re not an MVNO or otherwise competing against the mobile providers.”

Business Services. On this subject Bob was clear — “what small business customers want — especially in this economy — is a good fast connection at a reasonable price. We deliver exactly that. And we can upgrade you from 10M to our 100M service without having to switch out the equipment.” However, he’s still seeing a lot of interest in our higher end [Enterprise] optical Ethernet services, capable of running up to 10Gbps.

Why Cisco? “Several reasons, but the ability to deploy a carrier grade system was crucial. Also the flexibility — that we could deploy one network and still be able to offer business, mobile backhaul, and consumer services.”

IPv6: “We’re actively preparing. We did in fact participate in World IPv6 Day, pointing customers to a v6 DNS — and we’ll be ready for the transition.”

With this announcement we’ve now added Charter to our esteemed list of public North American cable customers, including Cox Communications, Comcast, Bright House Networks, and EastLink. On behalf of Cisco let me thank you, Bob, and the entire Charter team for putting your trust in us.

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