Light Reading
SDV be damned! MSO's sticking with an 'all-digital' bandwidth strategy that, it says, costs just 10% of a physical plant rebuild

Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
4/30/2009
50%
50%

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) expects to shell out $1 billion for an "all-digital" project that will enable the MSO to reclaim 40 to 50 channels of analog spectrum and free up room for Docsis 3.0, a broader video-on-demand (VoD) library, ethnic programming fare, and more than 100 linear hi-def channels.

That's according to Comcast cable division president Steve Burke, who spent a good chunk of this morning's earnings call describing and defending the MSO's big bandwidth-reclamation strategy. (See Comcast Posts Q1.)

That strategy, called Project Cavalry, is "one of the most important projects for us this year," Burke said. "This project is going to deliver more additional bandwidth than any improvement we've ever made."

The moves allow Comcast to recapture up to 300 MHz of spectrum, more than it got when the MSO upgraded 500 MHz plant to 750 MHz. "We estimate the total cost of about $1 billion is less than 10 percent of what a physical rebuild would cost us historically, and we can complete it in a fraction of the time," Burke said, noting that the investment will be spread out over 2009 and 2010.

But Comcast's definition of "all-digital" is a bit wide of the truth. The company intends to leave a programming tier of 20 to 30 channels in analog. About 14 percent of Comcast's customers take its analog service today, and roughly 72 percent have already made the leap to digital.

Depending on the customer's current level of service, the MSO is giving away a number of simple, $30 digital terminal adapters (DTAs) to ensure that secondary TVs customer homes can continue to receive and display programming in the expanded basic tier once it's moved to digital. (See slide 10 in this PDF.) Burke estimates that Comcast will need to deploy about 20 million digital devices for the transition. (See Comcast Seeds Digital Shift With Free Boxes.)

In addition to the cheap DTAs, Comcast is trying to keep costs in check with self-installation kits that curtail the need for pricey truck rolls. The MSO estimates that about 75 percent of customers so far have elected the self-install option.

Comcast already has the project underway in areas such as Portland, Ore., Seattle, and the Bay Area, and is starting to tee it up in its Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Baltimore markets. By the end of the quarter, Comcast had completed the job in about 5 percent of its footprint. (See Comcast 'Cavalry' Rides Into NoCal , Comcast Expanding 'All-Digital' Domain , and Comcast Sends In the All-Digital 'Cavalry'.)

"The results in Portland have been encouraging enough that we are looking at speeding up our rollout to over half our footprint by the end of this year," Burke said, adding that the conversions have given a 20 percent-plus return on investment so far.

During the call, an analyst asked Comcast why it has favored going all-digital over other bandwidth management strategies, such as switched digital video (SDV) or moving to 1 GHz. It's all about timing, ease of deployment, and, of course, the almighty dollar.

"I want to spend as little as possible. I want to have the minimal intrusion on the customer experience. When you analyze all those variables, and you can get a digital adapter for around $30… it all points to going all-digital," Burke explained.

Financial update
Like its smaller MSO counterpart, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Comcast's revenues and profits both jumped in the first quarter, despite the economy and competition from telcos and satellite TV providers.

Table 1: Earnings Snapshot

1Q08 1Q09 Change (%)
Revenues ($B) 8.389 8.835 5%
Net Income ($B) 0.732 0.772 5%
EPS ($) 0.24 0.27 13%
Source: Comcast Corp.




But there was more excitement about Comcast's 95 percent growth rate of free cashflow (FCF), which ballooned to $1.4 billion in the first quarter as capital spending dipped 19 percent, to $1.16 billion, and the MSO tightened its grip on other cost controls.

But what will the MSO do with all that dough? "With prodigious FCF all but assured for 2009, a resumption of Comcast's share repurchase program would seem a logical step," Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. analyst Craig Moffett suggests in a research note.

Comcast added 288,000 digital video customers but lost 78,000 basic subs. However, those losses were better than the 171,000 expected by analysts, and apparently kept in check by customers signing on during the broadcast digital TV transition, which won't be done until this June.

Comcast also added 329,000 high-speed customers, giving it a total of 15.2 million, and 298,000 digital voice customers, extending that total to 6.77 million. Comcast still has 2,000 customers taking phone service using old, crusty circuit-switched technology.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

(9)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
InterestedObserver
50%
50%
InterestedObserver,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:05:42 PM
re: Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan


Jeff- I lke your style of breaking down these issues into understandable terms.


Great article.


 

Jeff Baumgartner
50%
50%
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:05:41 PM
re: Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan
Thanks, you're too kind. Now, what do I owe you?
Jeff Baumgartner
50%
50%
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:05:40 PM
re: Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan


Also, it's not entirely clear here, but Comcast said 14% of subs presently take the "lifeline" basic analog tier  (20-30 channels), another 14% also take the "expanded" analog basic tier (which is moving to digital), and 72% are already getting digital.


 

menexis
50%
50%
menexis,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:05:40 PM
re: Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan
I'm always amazed by what Comcast is able to do. They are sitting on a lot of money.
OldPOTS
50%
50%
OldPOTS,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:05:39 PM
re: Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan


Are they adding capacity on the backend, behind headends, for these new services/apps?


OP


Great Info!

Jeff Baumgartner
50%
50%
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:05:39 PM
re: Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan


The way I understand it, they aren't really adding any new capacity, but reusing/redeploying some of the spectrum that's tied up with analog TV services today toward new digital video and Docsis IP services.  Page 9 of that Comcast Q1 PDF has a good view of the spectrum situation before and after the analog spectrum is reclaimed.


That said, there are also some rumors that Comcast has looked at 1GHz too, but I haven't been able to find anything to corroborate any significant deployment of it.  Of course, any new amps MSOs buy are 1 GHz, but they don't get any of the spectrum benefits if they don't actually turn up the capacity. Same goes for new STBs and modems...they all have 1 GHz tuners now....just in case MSOs other than Cox move to 1 GHz in a big way.

Jeff Baumgartner
50%
50%
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:05:38 PM
re: Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan


Sorry, misread you there...as far as capacity goes, they've discussed doing some Start Over apps and building a much larger video server infrastructure, which should drive usage.  Multichannel News  ran this piece about the next steps for Project Infinity, something along the lines of a VoD vault with 100K titles, about 10x where they are today.   As for Docsis, getting some of that analog spectrum back could put them on a path toward 100 Mbit/s since they'll have more channels with which to bond.  Of course the one thing this strategy doesn't do is give them any help with the upstream...unless they are thinking of doing a very complicated mid-split somewhere down the road.


 


 

OldPOTS
50%
50%
OldPOTS,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:05:38 PM
re: Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan


I understand this will "enable the MSO to reclaim 40 to 50 channels of analog spectrum and free up room for Docsis 3.0, a broader video-on-demand (VoD) library, ethnic programming fare, and more than 100 linear hi-def channels."


My intended question was inquiring if they were adding additional service capacity, BW/servers, to fil that new reclaimed delivery capacity?


OP





menexis
50%
50%
menexis,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:05:37 PM
re: Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan
Who knows. I'm not sure if they will be adding anything new
Flash Poll
LRTV Custom TV
Why SPs Should Consider Cisco's EPN

8|27|14   |   5:40   |   (0) comments


Sultan Dawood from Cisco discusses Cisco's EPN, which enables SPs to build agile and programmable networks delivering new network virtualized services using Cisco's Evolved Services Platform (ESP).
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Showcase @ Big Telecom Event 2014

8|26|14   |   2.56   |   (0) comments


SoftCOM is Huawei's framework for telecom business and network transformation. Haofei Liu, Solution Marketing Manager, Carrier Business Group, Huawei, showcases Huawei's SoftCOM architecture in this video.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei @ BTE 2014: Director of Integrated Solutions on SoftCOM & NFV Monetization

8|26|14   |   4.43   |   (0) comments


Libin Dai, Director of Integrated Solutions, Carrier Business Group, discusses Huawei's SoftCOM and NFV monetization. Huawei believes that NFV monetization should be service-driven rather than network-driven, and that operators should have network transformation, service transformation and a compatible and collaborative ecosystem in place in order to deploy NFV.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei @ BTE 2014: Director of US NFV Lab on CloudEdge & the Future of NFV

8|26|14   |   4.06   |   (0) comments


Sean Chen, Director of US NFV Lab at Huawei, discusses Huawei's new approach to NFV in open collaboration. Huawei believes that through Proof of Concept tests, it could help operators learn and communicate with the industry more effectively. Sean believes that successful implementation of NFV should have its values reaching to end users and discusses how Huawei's ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Highlights @ Big Telecom Event 2014

8|26|14   |   3.34   |   (0) comments


At the Big Telecom Event in Chicago Huawei showcases its high-level strategy, the SoftCOM architecture, which helps operators reduce the cost of ownership of their network infrastructure and generate additional revenue in the ICT service environment. Huawei showcases over 30 pilot programs from across the globe, focusing on the industry-leading commercial ...
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX – Live from the Show

8|21|14   |   5:58   |   (0) comments


An overview of VeEX Test and Measurement solutions including TX300S multi-service test set with VeExpress cloud-based management system, UX400 universal modular platform supporting 100G testing, and the redesigned RXT modular platform.
LRTV Custom TV
Transitioning CE 2.0 Networks Into the SDN & NFV Era With Telco Systems

8|19|14   |   5:19   |   (0) comments


Telco Systems' Ariel Efrati (CEO) and Moshe Shimon (VP of Product Management) discuss virtualization and how the company's new Open Metro Edge solution utilizes the SDN and NFV concepts to accelerate and orchestrate service delivery through its innovative product portfolio and software applications.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Myths: Is NFV Still Several Years Away?

8|11|14   |   1:13   |   (0) comments


Some say that NFV (network functions virtualization) is still several years away from being implemented on mobile operator networks. This isn't the case. Operators can get started on their paths to NFV now, as this short video from Skyfire shows.
LRTV Custom TV
A New Security Paradigm in SDN/NFV

7|28|14   |   02:54   |   (0) comments


Paul Shaneck, Global Director Network Solutions for Symantec, discusses the evolving virtualized network, explaining how Symantec is leading the security discussion as it relates to SDN and NFV, and helping to ensure the network is protected and compliant.
LRTV Documentaries
Sprint's Network Evolution

7|24|14   |   14:59   |   (0) comments


Sprint's Jay Bluhm gives a keynote speech at the Big Telecom Event (BTE) about Sprint's network and services evolution strategy, including Spark.
LRTV Documentaries
BTE Keynote: The Software-Defined Operator

7|24|14   |   18:43   |   (1) comment


Deutsche Telekom's Axel Clauberg explains the concept of the software-defined operator to the Big Telecom Event (BTE) crowd.
Light Reedy
Numbers Are In: LR's 2014 Salary Survey

7|24|14   |   1:25   |   (7) comments


Our fourth annual Salary Survey paints a picture of who's hiring, firing, earning, and yearning for a change in the telecom industry.
Upcoming Live Events!!
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
September 23, 2014, Denver, CO
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
Hot Topics
Comcast Streams Back to School
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 8/21/2014
T-Mobile: Small Cells? We're Dense Already
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 8/22/2014
Level 3 Does Big Data Differently
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 8/21/2014
Verizon Launches QR Code Security Solution
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 8/26/2014
Sprint Drops Prices, But Also Speeds?
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 8/21/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed