Exploring the AT&T-BlackRock deal, open access and cable upgrades

AT&T's new "Gigapower" fiber joint venture with BlackRock Alternatives initially will focus on 1 million to 1.5 million locations outside AT&T's wireline footprint. Meanwhile, Charter Communications and Comcast are embarking on major hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) upgrades. And fixed wireless access (FWA) remains a tool of interest in the broadband investment community.

Those were some of the topics covered on this Light Reading Podcast with Jack Burton and Jay Rolls, two cable and broadband vets at Broadband Success Partners, a telecom consulting firm primarily focused on providing tech due diligence to investors exploring opportunities in broadband.

It's an active segment, as the firm worked on 32 deals last year and recently held 35 meetings at the recent Metro Connect show in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

As for that AT&T-BlackRock deal, it was treated like a "completely new entity," said Burton, a principal at Broadband Success Partners who is late of Cablevision Systems and Altice USA. "We had to look at that as if it was a startup."

On the cable side, operators are exploring multiple upgrade paths, including a move to DOCSIS 4.0 or a more incremental move featuring "high-split" upgrades paired with a spectrum expansion to 1.2GHz that Rolls, a former Charter CTO, likes to refer to as "DOCSIS 3.5."

"I think there's a lot of life left in [DOCSIS 3.1]," he said.

For a lightly edited transcript of this podcast, click the closed caption button in the video toolbar. If you'd like to skip around and listen, here are a few topics that were discussed:

  • A brief overview of what Broadband Success Partners is and does (1:02)
  • The role Broadband Success Partners played in the recently announced "Gigapower" fiber joint venture between AT&T and BlackRock Alternatives and how the open access network model will apply (4:53)
  • Why the open access model is gathering more interest in the US and a review of the variations in the open access model that are emerging (6:33)
  • Some detail on how a new type of open access project in Colorado took shape (8:20)
  • Thoughts on how cable operators are pursuing HFC upgrades and why this round of upgrades is different than past versions of DOCSIS (12:24)
  • Some theories on why Charter is taking a multi-faceted, multi-phased approach to its HFC upgrade rather than going with a uniform approach across all markets (16:36)
  • Why Comcast's path to DOCSIS 4.0 using Full Duplex DOCSIS appears to be gaining a bit more interest in the cable world (19:30)
  • Speculation on why Comcast went with FDX and if that decision traces back to its use of millions of Digital Terminal Adapters to fuel its all-digital video transition (22:37)
  • How fixed wireless access technology is fitting into the broadband equation for investors who are interested in sizing up broadband opportunities (25:07)

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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