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All-Fiber Ain't Necessarily Cable's End Game

Carol Wilson
LR Cable News Analysis
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large
3/25/2013
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DENVER -- Cable Next-Gen IP Strategies: Entering the Zettabyte Era -- Cable operators shouldn't assume that an all-fiber network is automatically their ultimate goal, Motorola Mobility LLC's John Holobinko said in a keynote address here last week. They should instead look to incremental changes in their hybrid fiber-coax networks to match the need for increased broadband capacity, new incremental revenues and greater network efficiency. Holobinko, VP-Strategy and Business Development for the Home unit of Motorola Mobility (which is in the process of becoming part of Arris Group Inc.), said the good news for cable operators is their existing hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) networks have the flexibility to meet changing service needs. While passive optical networks are one option, he added, the cost of deployment can make them impractical, especially in areas where only a small percentage of customers want a high-end broadband package. Cable operators should also consider EPON Protocol over Coax (EPoC), switched Ethernet, Wi-Fi and HFC with enhancements. "No one technology is the end-all; there are tradeoffs for each," Holobinko said. (See EPON Protocol over Coax Starts Its Standards Journey.) For example, the cost of long-reach 10 Gigabit EPON optics gives that technology no cost advantage over Carrier Ethernet, when it comes to delivering symmetric bandwidth to high-end customers. By contrast, improved HFC optical performance is now making it possible to eliminate distance restrictions and save both capex and opex by reaching more customers without adding new service hubs. In fact, cable operators can eliminate hubs and achieve greater savings by having fewer hubs that are more highly utilized, Holobinko commented. Such an approach is an incremental step toward a software-defined network, he said. Ultimately, it makes sense to push fiber deeper into the access network when such investment is justified by customer demand, either from businesses or consumers, even if the fiber isn't put into immediate service. Cable operators can then connect customers to an Ethernet node switch as they come on board and lay additional fiber as needed, in an evolutionary approach to network upgrades. The network can then also be used to deliver wireless backhaul and to serve as the backbone network for dense Wi-Fi deployment. — Carol Wilson, Group Content Director, UBM Tech’s Business Technology Events

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