Light Reading

Cable Providers Boost Broadband Speeds

Alan Breznick

Seeking to stave off the competitive threats from Google Fiber, AT&T, CenturyLink, and bother rivals, the US cable industry is fighting back by hiking its own broadband speeds and unveiling a new consumer-oriented brand name for DOCSIS 3.1

In a flurry of announcements and pronouncements over the past 10 days, three of the top eight US MSOs have unveiled plans to boost downstream as high as 1 Gbit/s. All three MOs – Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cox Communications Inc. , and Mediacom Communications Corp. – intend to carry out the speed hikes in at least several of their biggest markets over the rest of the year.

Cox, of course, has made the biggest splash with its plans to launch 1 Gbit/s service in select markets later this year. Cox CEO Pat Esser disclosed the plan during last week's Cable Show in Los Angeles and other Cox officials later confirmed it, saying the company will rely on both its main hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) networks and all-fiber links to deliver the 1 Gig speeds. (See Cox Goes for a Gigabit .)

As it prepares for its 1 Gig launches later in the year, Cox is already boosting the top broadband speeds it offers. At the Cable Show last week, Cox CTO Kevin Hart said the third largest US MSO is now increasing its fastest downstream speeds to 150 Mbit/s to 200 Mbit/s across its service footprint.

Mediacom, the nation's eighth-largest MSO, is also revving up to deliver faster speeds across its territories. The company announced last week that it will hike its maximum downstream speed to 150 Mbit/s and its maximum upstream speed to 20 Mbit/s in all of its markets, starting in early June.

Mediacom already offers one of the industry's top downstream speeds, 305 Mbit/s, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. But it apparently doesn't plan to extend that offering to other markets yet.

At the same time, Time Warner Cable recently announced plans to bring downstream speeds as high as 300 Mbit/s in parts of New York City and Los Angeles, starting next month. The nation's second largest MSO said it will offer the higher speeds to more than 200,000 broadband customers by the end of June.

TW Cable has lagged behind most of its MSO peers in offering such broadband speeds to subscribers. But, with its move to all-digital service in New York and Los Angeles, the company is now freeing up spectrum to deliver faster data speeds.

These MSO moves all come as the cable industry seeks to position its next-gen broadband spec, DOCSIS 3.1, for the emerging Gigabit Era. With DOCSIS 3.1 designed to support speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s downstream and 1 Gbit/s up stream, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) announced last week that "Gigasphere" will be the new public name for D3.1.

The industry's re-branding of the geeky-sounding DOCSIS 3.1 spec does not come as a great surprise. At the SCTE Cable-TEC Expo show in Atlanta last fall, NCTA president and CEO Michael Powell ripped into the DOCSIS moniker and said the industry needed a much sexier name to sell the service to consumers. (See Powell: Rebrand Docsis 3.1.)

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/6/2014 | 2:55:41 PM
Re: Regulatory concerns
I'm thinking that if people can get faster Internet speed, the heat may simmer down on net neutrality, even though the two issues are only loosely related. The electorate is fickle and easily distracted. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/6/2014 | 12:54:52 PM
Re: Regulatory concerns
Well since the top line speed of the cable isn't what we're all panicked about, then no.

The current discussion about whether the open internet can even survive with the current FCC is centered around net neutrality, complexity and cost.  Nobody, and I mean nobody, said a thing about the maximum speeds delivered by some limited number of cable companies to a limited number of their constituents.

I mean everybody loves FiOS except that their Netflix performance recently has been awful to the point that people I know simply won't watch it anymore.  Which is presumably why Netflix caved and decided to pay them.

Should Netflix be paying them?  Are peering agreements part of net neutrality?  Should ISPs be allowed to sell "fast lanes" to companies?  What will happen if they do?  Is Wheeler basically lying?  Should ISPs be title II regulated?  Etc.  These are the things we're talking about.
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/6/2014 | 12:46:48 PM
Cable Providers Boost Broadband Speeds
@KBode, I fully agree that the market for the boost speed may not be there.

Regarding de-regulation, I wonder if that is not the result of it being more connected with telecom and the communications industry?  Or do you think they truly understand the technology?

User Rank: Light Sabre
5/6/2014 | 9:27:20 AM
Re: Regulatory concerns
While the narrative always seems to be that we're facing an endless stream of new regulations, broadband is a sector that has been dramatically de-regulated over the last decade to the point where we're fighting over whether or not agencies can regulate last-mile ISPs in some cases whatsoever.

Many of these speeds are nice, but they're limited in availability and pricing will remain very high as their biggest competition will be slow, over-priced DSL.
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/5/2014 | 9:52:13 PM
Cable Providers Boost Broadband Speeds
@FakeMitchWagner - Do you think that is enough competition now?  I am wondering when someone will further develop a different pricing/service structure to change the game.  But even then, will that stop the regulation?  How will customers most differentiate the providers?

Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/5/2014 | 2:42:02 PM
Regulatory concerns
As telcos and cable providers boost broadband speed, I wonder whether this will quell demands for new Internet regulations. 
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