For the last three years, one key focus of cable operators has been to deploy 1 Gbps service offers to as much of their footprint as possible, as a means to dissuade subscribers from moving to the competition. This has been an extremely effective strategy, as evidenced by cable’s increasing market share in areas where cable systems are installed compared to their telco competition.
One thing we know about the market: when additional capacity or faster speeds become available, operators will find a way to offer them as a means to gain market share. One only has to look at CableLabs’® plots of the highest offered speeds on networks to see that the slope of speeds growth hasn’t tapered off.
Data rates never stand still, fueled by competition and evolving technologies. Whereas traditional GPON only offered 2.5 Gbps downstream and 1.0 Gbps upstream, telcos are gradually moving to new symmetrical PONs that support 10 Gbps both downstream and upstream.
What this portends for cable operators is that 1 Gbps is not going to last much longer as the highest data speed, and there will also be increasing pressure to increase return path speeds. Cable companies will want to do what is necessary to retain their premium internet subscribers. They will also want to expand their commercial market opportunities to address medium to large businesses that require multi-gigabit symmetrical services. Capturing these new market opportunities by delivering multi-gigabit services with a cable connection makes great economic and time-to-market sense.
What should a cable operator be doing now to prepare for higher speed services above 1 Gbps?
- Assess where cable rebuilds or upgrades are required and build to 1.2 GHz operation, or at least a minimum of 1.0 GHz operation along with a minimum 85 MHz upstream or greater operation.
- Have a plan for migration to FDX (full duplex DOCSIS). This should be an integral part of your rebuild or upgrade plans, now. How can you do that? Look for vendors to begin providing cable nodes and other equipment that is FDX ready today, meaning that when FDX components are available, upgrading to FDX is a simple module drop-in, versus a costly equipment replacement.
- On the DOCSIS front, review your existing CCAP licensing plan. New services are going to be 2 Gbps or higher and require faster upstream speeds. That may require more than twice your existing traditional DOCSIS licenses at a huge upfront capital expense. Or if you have service group based licenses and you are rebuilding your network to smaller service group sizes, it can result in a heavy capital expense for many more service group based licenses with little or no immediate growth in customer revenues to offset this investment. Instead, ask for a CCAP licensing plan that is independent of data speeds, channels and service groups—a plan that is tied closely to the number of subscribers on your network, avoiding any big upfront cost to offer 2 Gbps services across smaller service group sizes.
Come see us to learn more at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, booth #1603, to begin the conversation. We at Cisco are heavily investing in new cable technologies and products to help you navigate your network migration, improve your competitiveness and better align your network capital investments to your business success.