A small fraction of China's 200 million TV households get broadband services from cable operators today, but that's expected to change as the nation's multitude of cable operators consolidate and gear up to take on China's much more powerful telcos.
Just 3.7 million homes in China currently get broadband services from cable operators via Ethernet-over-coax (EoC) technologies, but that will rise to almost 24 million by 2016, Infonetics Research Inc. predicts in a report issued this week that sizes up this emerging marketplace.
The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), China's version of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has blessed three technical approaches for a next-generation broadband (NGB) project that aims to expand the technical options and help the nation's cable operators put up a better fight against the likes of China Telecom Corp. Ltd. and China Unicom Ltd. Here's a quick rundown of what SARFT has approved so far:
C-Docsis: This platform enables any Docsis 2.0- or Docsis 3.0-certified cable modem to interoperate with a stripped down cable modem termination system (CMTS) that's called the Coax Media Converter (CMC). The CMC functions like a CMTS, but, to keep costs down and to fit into China's widespread fiber-to-the-building architectures, it doesn't support the core routing functions that are found in fully-fledged CMTSs.
C-HomePlug: A modified version of HomePlug A/V that still uses the lower part of the spectrum range.
HiNOC (High Performance Network Over Coax): Rather than occupying the lower bands used by C-HomePlug and the upstream path of C-Docsis, all HiNOC-based services will live in the high portions of the spectrum -- somewhere in the range of 750MHz to 1.6GHz.
This implies some opportunity for chip vendors. Most of China's EoC deployments today rely on HomePlug to pump broadband services to a market that's dominated by multiple dwelling unit (MDU) environments, putting Qualcomm Inc. in the catbird seat, as chips go.
But Broadcom Corp. has championed C-Docsis, and Entropic Communications Inc., meanwhile, is expected to adapt its Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) chips, which already work in the high spectrum range, to the coming 2.0 HiNOC standard. (See Broadcom Joins China's Cable Gold Rush and China Rolls Its Own Ethernet-over-Coax Standard.)
There's something at stake for all of them. Infonetics analyst Jeff Heynen predicts that EoC equipment revenue will grow to $804 million in 2016 (modem shipments are expected to make up about 70 percent of those revenues) from $189 million in 2011. He expects the larger market for EoC headends and modems to expand at a 33 percent compound annual growth rate during that same span.
C-Docsis to be a 'big player' in China EoC
Although HomePlug has dominated China's EoC market so far, C-Docsis and HiNOC will likely lead the way during the market's coming growth phase, Heynen says, noting HiNOC will likely need a global silicon provider to help legitimize the technology and sustain that part of the industry. "C-Docsis will certainly be a big player," he adds.
But there are still some questions as to how fast, or even if, China's EoC market will develop. While it has the potential to become a huge market, the entire process is at the mercy of the Chinese government. It could all be stopped in its tracks, Heynen warns, if the NGB project becomes a casualty of any future government budget cuts.
Still, opportunities could extend well beyond China. Other countries and regions that have significant MDU concentrations that could benefit from new EoC technologies include Latin America, Brazil, Russia and parts of Eastern Europe, Heynen says.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable